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1995 



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THIEVBS' WIT 

BULBBKT VOOTNBR 



THIEVES' WIT 

An Everyday Detective Story 



BT 

HULBERT FOOTNER 

AUTHOR or "IHB SBAUD VAIXEY," "JACK CSAMTY," ETC. 




NEW ''iBr YORK 
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY 



(. ri 



c^P'ii^ 



2S6069 



Copjfright, 1918, 
By Otorgt H. Donn Company 



Printed in the United States of America 



•i 



I 



THIEVES' WIT 



MY first easel— with what an agreeable thrill 
a professional man repeats the words to him- 
self. With most men I believe it is as it was with 
me, not the case that he intrigues for and expects to 
gt but something q:ite different, that drops out of 
Heaven unexpected and undeserved like most of 
the good things of life. 

Every now and then m an expansive moment I 
teU the story of my case, or part of it, whereupon 
something like the following invariably succeeds: 
"Why don't you write it down ?" 
"I never learned the trade of writing." 
"But detective stories are so popular 1" 
"Yes, because the detective is a romantic figure, 
. hero, gifted with almost superhuman keenness 
and mfaUibility. Nobody ever accused me of being 
romantic. I am only an ordinary fellow who plugs 
away like any other business man. Every day I am 
up against it; I fall down; some crook turns a trick 
on me. What kind of a story would that make?" 
"But that's what people want nowadays, the real 
tmng, stories of the streets day by day." 
7 



8 



Thieves' Wit 



Well, I have succumbed. Here goes for better 
or for worse. 

Before beginning I should explain that though it 
was my first case I was no longer in the first bloom 
of youth. I was along in the thirties before I got 
my start and had lost a deal of hair from my 
cranium. This enabled me to pass for ten years 
older if I wished to, and still with the assistance of 
my friend Oscar Nilson the wig-maker I could make 
a presentable figure of youth and innocence. 

During my earlier days I had been a clerk in a 
railway freight offict, a poor slave with only my 
dreams to keep me going. My father had no sym- 
pathy with my aspirations to be a detective. He 
was a dose-mouthed and a close-fisted man. But 
when he died, after having been kept on scanty ra- 
tions for years, the old lady and I found ourselves 
quite comfortably off. 

I promptly shook the dust of the freight oiEce 
from my feet and set about carrying some of the 
dreams into effect. I rented a littl- office on For- 
tieth street (twenty dollars a month), furnished it 
discreetly, and had my name painted in neat char- 
acters on the frosted g^ass of the door: "B. En- 
derby" — no more. Lord 1 how proud I was of the 
outfit 

I bought a fire-proof document file for cases, and 
had some note-paper and cards printed in the same 
neat style: 

B. ENDERBY 
Confidential Investigator 



Thieves' Wit 9 

You see I wished to avoid the sensational. I was 
not looking for any common divorce evidence busi- 
ness. Since I had enough to exist on, I was deter- 
mined to wait for important, high-priced, kid-glove 
cases. 

And I waited — more than a year in fact. But it 
was a delightful time I Fellows were always drop- 
ping m to smoke and chin. My little office became 
like our club. You see I had missed all this when 
I was a boy. Any youngster who has ever been 
speeded up in a big clerical office will understand 
how good It was. Meanwhile I studied crime in 
all Its aspects. 

I worked, too, at another ambition which I shared 
with a few million of my fellow-creatures, viz. : to 
write a successful play. I started a dozen and fin- 
ished one. I thought it was a wonder of brilliancy 
then. I have learned better. In pursuance of this 
aim I had to attend the theatre a good deal, and 
from the top gallery I learned something about 
actors and actresses if not how to write a great play. 

I mention the play-writing for it was that which 
brought me my first case. I used to haunt the of- 
fice of a certain prominent play-broker who was al- 
ways promising to read my play and never did. One 
afternoon in the up-stairs corridor of the building 
where she had her offices I came face to face with 
the famous Irma Hamerton. 

Nowadays Irma is merely a tradition of loveliness 
and grace. Theatregoers of this date have nothing 
like her to rejoice their eyes. Then, to us humble 



10 



Thieves' Wit 



fellows she stood for the rarest essence of life, the 
ideal, the unattainable — call it what you like. Tall, 
slender and dark, with a voice that played on your 
heartstrings, she was one of the fortunate ones of 
earth. She had always been a star, always an idol 
of the public. Not only did I and my gang never 
miss a show in which she appeared, but we would sit 
up half the night afterwards talking about her. 
None of us naturally had ever dreamed of seeing 
her face to face. 

We met at a corner of the corridor, and almost 
collided. I forgot my manners entirely. My eyes 
almost popped out of my head. I wished to fix that 
moment in my life forever. Imagine my confusion 
when I saw that she was crying, that glorious crea- 
ture I — actually the tears were running down her soft 
cheeks like any conmior woman's. Do you wonder 
that a kind of convulsion took place inside me? 

Seeing me, she quickly turned her head, but it was 
too late, I had already seen them stealing like dia- 
monds down her cheeks. I stared at her like a 
clown, and like a clown I blurted out without think- 
ing: 

"Oh, what's the matter?" 

She didn't answer me, of course. She merely hur- 
ried faster down the hall, and turned the next cor- 
ner. 

When I realised what I had done I felt like butting 
my silly head through one of the glass partitions 
that lined the corridor. I called myself all the names 
in my vocabulary. I clean forgot my own errand in 



Thieves' Wit n 

the building, and went back to my oiEce muttering 
to myself in the streets like a lunatic. 

I was glad no one dropped in. In my mind I went 
over the scene of the meeting a hundred times I sup- 
pose, and made up what I ought to have said and 
done, more ridiculous I expect than what had hap- 
pened. What bothered me was that she would think 
I was just a common fresh guy. I couldn't rest un- 
derthat. So I started to write her a note. I wrote 
half a dozen and tore them up. The one I sent 
ran like this:— I blush to think of it now— 

Miss Irma Hamerton, 
Dear Madam: 

The undcMigned met you in the corridor of the 
Manhattan Theatre Buifding this afternoon about 
three. You seemed to be in distress, and I was so 
surprised I forgot myself and addressed you. I hctt 
that you wiU accept my apology for the seeminj 
rudeness. I have seen you m all your plays, many 
of them several times over, and I have received so 

[!l"M"l""-^™'" y"*"" *•=*'"& and I respect you 
so highly that It is very painful to me to think tLt 
I may have added to your distress by my rudeness. 

JenSSSr '^^ °"'^ '^'""'''""" "^ -^ - 
Yours respectfully, 

B. Enderby. 

The instant after I had posted this letter I would 
have given half I possessed to get it back again It 
suddenly occurred to me that it would only make 
matters worse. Either it would seem like an im- 



12 



Thieves' Wit 



pertinent attempt to pry into her private affair*, or 
a bold move to follow up my original rudencM. A 
real gentleman would not have (aid anything about 
the teari, I told myself. My cheeks got hot, but it 
was too late to recall the letter. I was thoroughly 
miserable. I did not tell any of my friends what 
had happ'ied. 

That night I went alone to see her play. Lost 
in her part of course and hidden under her makeup 
she betrayed nothing. There was always a sugges- 
tion of sadness about hur, even in comedy. When 
that lovely deep voice trembled, a corresponding 
shiver went up and aown your spine. 

I thought about her all the way home. My de- 
tective instinct was aroused. I tried to figure out 
what could be her trouble. There are only four 
kinds of really desperate trouble: ill-health, death, 
loss of money, and unrequited love. To look at her 
in the daylight without make-up was enou^ to dis- 
pose of the first. It was said that she had no close 
relatives, therefore she couldn't have lost any re- 
cently. As for money, surely with her earning ca- 
pacity she had no need to trouble about that. 
Finally, how could it be an affair of the heart? Was 
there a man alive who would not have cast himself 
at her feet if she had turned a warm glance In his 
direction? Rich, successful and adored as she was, 
I had to give it up. 

About five o'clock the next afternoon the surprise 
of my life was administered to me. I received a 
large, square, buff-coloured envelope with a brown 



Thieves' V',i 13 

border, and written upon with brown ink in immenie, 

bled with a delicioui foreboding of what was iniide. 
ineanwh.N better sense was telling me not to be a 
tool. It contained a card on which was written : 

£«S« Jr*? ^ai"'""' ^" >>' 9l»d to see Mr. B. 
TheHjA ,?"'j *' 'convenient for him to call a, 
the Hotel Rotterdam at noon on Thursday." 

un^Zu """""t' IT"'^ "' ''• '^''"^- Then I went 
office. Finally I rushed out to the most fashionable 
outfitters to get a new suit before closing time. 
Thursday was the next day. 



I HAD never been inside tliat exduiive of ex- 
duwve hotelf, the Rotterdtm. I confeia that 
my kneei were a little infirm at I went through the 
•wing doon, and passed before the nonchalant, in- 
diBerent eyes of the handsome footmen in blue liv- 
eries. "Ahh, they're only overgrown bell-hops I" I 
told myself encouragingly, and fixed the Marruis be- 
hmd the desk with a haughty stare. 

Walking in a dream I presently found myself be- 
ing shown into a corner room high up in the build- 
mg. I was left there alone, and I had a chance to 
look around. I had never seen anything like it, 
except on the stage. It was decorated in what I 
think they caU the Empire style, with walls of white 
paneUed wood, picked out with gold, and pretty 
curiously shaped furniture. Everywhere there were 
great bunches of pink roses, picked that morning, 
you could see, with petals still moist. It smelled 
like Heaven might. 

That was all I had time to take m when the door 
opened, and she entered. She was wearing a pink 
lacy sort of thing that went with the roses. She 
didn t mmd me, of course. She was merely polite 
and casual. But just the same I could see that she 
was ueeply troubled about something. Trouble 



Thieves' Wit 



15 



Make* « beautiful 



make* a woman'* eye* big. 
woman twice a* beautiful. 

She went to the point a* *traight a* a buUet 
^^I .uppo.e you are wondering why I ,e„t for 

I confe**ed that I wai. 

"It wa* the heading on your letter paper. What 
te^ctive"?"'""" ^^ '""'''^"'''»' inve*tigator'-a de- 

te clitrit!;!" ""'" ''^" *■"" -" "*""^ '- 

write to* met"'' *** """*" *"''''• ""^^y ^'J y°» 

,nl^^°°^ T •'y '"T"*'- "There wa* no rea- 
.o,v-«cept what the letter *aid," I *tammered. 

Several other que.tion* followed, by which I ,aw 
•he wa* trymg to get a line on mc. I offered Iier 
reference*. She accepted them inatteiUively. 

♦h!nl f "*..'"!'"" *° ""'•^'' »''« other people 
thmk of you," *he .aid. "I have to make Gp my 

I Z"" %«.'!' °1" '""'* ''■^' ''"» injtrument,," 
~L "•'^ "" questions." 

This *cemed to please her. After some further 

It seen, ,d to me from your letter that you had a good 

ScUI T l""^ that perhaps more than detertive 

J J h^^ '" » W«2C of publicity. I am sur- 

lZtfJL'T"\ ^''.^ P-hing'^thick-sLned 
sort of people force themselves do,e to me, and the 



i6 



Thieves' Wit 



kind that I like avoid me, I fear. I am not sure of 
whom I can trust. I am very sure that if I put my 
business in the hands of the regular people it would 
soon become a matter of common knowledge." 

Her simplicity and sadness affected me deeply. 
I could do nothing but protest my honesty and my 
devotion. 

"I am satisfied," she said at last. "Are you very 
busy at present?" 

"Tolerably," I said with a busy air. It would 
never have done to let her think otherwise. 

"I would like you to take my case," she said with 
an enchanting note of appeal, "but it would have to 
be on the condition that you attended to it your- 
self, solely. I would have to ask you to agree not 
to delegate any part of it to even the most trusted 
of your employees." 

This was easy, since I didn't have any. 

"You must, please, further agree not to take any 
steps without consulting me in advance, and you 
must not mind — perhaps I might call the whole thing 
off at any moment. But of course I would pay you." 

I quickly agreed to the conditions. 

"I have been robbed of a pearl necklace," she 
said with an air of infinite sadness. 

I did not need to be told that there was more in 
this than the ordinary actress'-stolen-jewels case. 
Irma Hamerton didn't need that kind of advertis- 
ing. She was morbidly anxious that there should 
be no advertising in this. 

"It was a single strand of sixty-seven black pearls 



Thieves' Wit 



17 



ranging in size from a currant down to a pea. They 
were perfectly matched, and each stone had a curi- 
ous, bluish cast, which is, I believe, quite rare. As 
jewels go nowadays, it was not an exceptionally val- 
uable necklace, worth about twenty-six thousand dol- 
lars. It represented my entire savings. I have a 
passion for pearls. These were exceptionally per- 
fect and beautiful. They were the result of years 
of search and selection. Jewellers call them blue 
pearls. I will show you what they looked like." 

She went into the adjoining room for a moment, 
retummg with a string of dusky, gleaming pearls 
hanging from her hand. Tkey were lovely things. 
My unaccustomed eyes could not distinguish the blue 
m them until she pointed it out. It was like the last 
gleam of light in the evening sky. 

"The lost necklace was exactly like this," she said. 
"Had you two?" I asked in surprise. 
She smiled a little. "These are artificial." 
I suppose I looked like the fool I felt. 
"A very natural mistake," she said. "Some time 
ago my jeweler advised me not to wear the real 
pearls on the stage, so I had this made by Roberts. 
The resemblance was so perfect that I could scarcely 
tell the difference myself. It was only by wearing 
them that I could be sure." 
"By wearing them?" I repeated. 
"The warmth of my body caused the real pearls 
to gleam with a deeper lustre." 
"Lucky pearls i" I thought. 
"They almost seemed alive," she went on with a 



i8 



Thieves' Wit 



"The artificial pearls 
And they have to be re- 



kind of passionate regret 
show no change, of course, 
newed in a short time." 

I asked for the circumstances of the robbery. 
"It was at the theatre," she said. "It occurred 
on the night of February 14th." 

"Six weeks ago I" I exclaimed in dismay. "The 
trail is cold 1" 

"I know," she said deprecatingly. "I do not ex- 
pect a miracle." , 
I asked her to go on. 

"I had an impulse to wear the genuine pearls that 
night. I got them out of the safe deposit vault in 
the afternoon. When I saw the real and the arti- 
ficial together I was afraid of making a mistake, so 
I made a little scratch on the clasp of the real strand. 
I wear them in the first act. I have to leave them 
off in the second act, when I appear in a nurse's uni- 
form, also in the third when I am supposed to be 
ill. In the fourth act I wear them again. 

"On the night in question I wore the real pearls 
in the first act. I am sure of that, because they were 
glowing wonderfully when I took them off — as if 
there was a tiny fire in each stone. I put them in the 
pocket of the nurse's uniform and carried them on 
the stage with me during the second act. In the 
third act I was obliged to leave them in my dressmg- 
room, because in this act I am shown in bed. But I 
thought they would be safe in the pocket of the dress 
I took off." 

"The instant I returned to my dressinq;-room, I 



Thieves' Wit 



19 



got them out and put them on, suspecting nothing 
wrong. It was not until after the final curtain that 
upon taking them off, I was struck by their dullness. 
I looked for my little mark on the clasp. It was 
not there. I found I had two strings of artificial 
pearls." 

I as' jd her the obvious questions. "Did you 
have any special reason for wearing the genume 
pearls that night?" 

"None, except that I loved them. I loved to 
handle them. They were so alive I I was afraid 
they might lose their life if I never wore them." 

Somehow, I was not fully satisfied with this an- 
swer. But for the present I let it go. 

"Was any one with you when you got them out 
of the safety deposit box?" I asked. 

"I was quite alone." 

"Did any one know you were wearing them that 
night?" 

"No one." 

''Were there any strangers on the stage?" 
"No. My manager at my request is very particu- 
lar as to that. I have been so annoyed by well- 
meamng people. No one is admitted. In this pro- 
duction the working force behind is smaU. I can 
give you the name of every person who was on the 
stage that night." 

"Has any one connected with the company left 
smce then?" ' 

"No." 



20 



Thieves' Wit 



"Who has the entree to your dressing-room while 
you are on the stage?" 

"Only my maid. But she is not expected to re- 
main there every moment. Indeed, on the night in 
question I remember seeing her watching the scene 
from the first entrance." 

"During which time your room was unlocked?" 

"Very likely. But Ac door to it was immediately 
behind her." 

"Have you any reason to suspect her?" 

"None whatever, She's been with me four years. 
Still, I do not except her from your investigation." 

"Does she know of your loss ?" 

"No one in the world knows of it but you and I." 

"And the thief," I added. 

She winced. I was unable to ascribe a reason 
for it. 

"Do you care to tell me why you waited six weeks 
before deciding to look for the thief?" I asked as 
gently as possible. 

"My jeweller— who is also an old friend, has se- 
cured three more blue pearls," she answered quickly. 
"He has asked me for the necklace, so that he can 
add them to it. I cannot put him off much longer 
without confessing that I have lost it." 

"But shouldn't we tell him that it has been 
stolen?" I asked surprised. 

She energetically shook her head. 

"But jewellers have an organisation for the recov- 
ery of stolen jewels," I persisted. "The only way 
we can prevent the thief from realising on the pearls 



Thieves' Wit 



21 

is by having the los, published throughout the trade." 
I can t consent to that." she said with painfully 

told!M^rn:afed°"'^*^"'"^-''^''»™-^-the 

J^^ "'" '^^°^ ^" ''"'^- "A woman's reason " 
she murmured, avoiding my glance. ' 

rou know, of course, how you increase m^ A:t 
ficd.cs by withholding part of'yo"urcSdere."''- 
"DonV 1\" " '•'"'' *"'""'^ '" ''«'• J°vely throat. 

I bowed. 
wisSy"'"*''^"" "" '" '" 'P'*» °f •*." She said 



1 NEED not take the space to put down all the 
operations of my early reasoning on the case. 
I had plenty to think about. But every avenue my 
thoughts followed was blocked sooner or later by 
a blank wall. Never in my whole experience have 
I been asked to take up such a blind trail — and this 
was my first case, remember. Six weeks lost be- 
yond recall I It was discouraging. 

I narrowed myself down to two main theories: 

(«) The pearls had been stolen by experienced 
specialists after long and careful plotting or, 

(b) They had been picked up on impulse by a 
man or woman dazzled by their beauty. In this case 
the thief would most likely hoard them and ^oat 
over them in secret. 

Not the least puzzling factor in the case was my 
client herself. It was dear that she had been pas- 
sionately attached to her pearls; she spoke of them 
always in almost a poetic strain. Yet there was a 
personal note of anguish in her grief which even the 
loss of her treasure was not sufficient to explain. 
She was a quiet woman. And strangest of »U, she 
seemed to be more bent on finding out who had taken 
them, than on getting them back again. She had 
waited six weeks before acting at all, and now she 
hedged me around with so many conditions that the 
prospect of success was nil. 

33 



Thieves' Wit 23 

I Kad an intuition which warned me that if I 
wiahed to remain friend* with her I \ad better be 
careful whom I accused of thf crime. It was a puz- 
zler whichever way you looked at it. However, an 
mvestigator must not allow himself to dwell on the 
hopelessness of his whole tangle, but must set to 
work on a thread at a time. Whichever way it 
turned out, I was to have the delight for a long time 
to come of seeing her frequently. 

I was there again the next afternoon. This day 
I re:aember the room was fragrant with the scent 
of great bowls of violets. The lovely dark-haired 
mistress of the place looked queenly in a dress of 
purple and silver. As always when there were a 
number of people around she was composed in man- 
ner, one might say a little haughty. 

There was quite a crowd. It included a middle- 
aged lady, a Mrs. Bleecker, a little over-dressed for 
her age and envious-looking. She, it transpired, 
was Miss Hamerton's companion or chaperon. The 
only other woman was a sister star, a handsome, 
blonde woman older than Miss Hamerton, very af- 
fectionate and catty. I have forgotten her name. 
The men were of various types. Among them I re- 
member the editor of a prominent newspaper, a 
weU-known playwright and Mr. Roland Quarles. 
The latter was Miss Hamerton's leading man. He 
looked quite as handsome and young off the stage 
as on, but seemed morose. 

Miss Hamerton introduced me all around in her 
casual way, and left me to sink or swim by my own 



M 



Thieves' Wit 



eSorti. None of the people put themselvet out to 
be agreeable to me. I could tee that each was won- 
dering jealously where I came in. However, lince 
I had a right to be there, I didn't let it trouble me. 
This is life I I told myself, and kept my eyes and 
ears open. I was not long in discovering that these 
"brilliant" people chattered about as foolishly as 
the humblest I knew. Only my beautiful young lady 
was always dignified and wistful. She let others 
do the talking. 

I stubbornly outstayed them all. The men very 
reluctantly left me in possession of the field. As for 
the lady companion I saw in her eye that she was 
determined to learn what I had come for. How- 
ever, Miss Hamerton coolly disposed of her by »«':- 
ing her to entertain a newcomer in the next room 
while she talked business with me. 

These people wearied her. She relaxed when 
they had gone. She said to me : "I had you shown 
right up because I want my friends to become accus- 
tomed to seeing you. I hope you did not mind." 

I replied that I was delighted. 

"I suppose I ought to account for you in some 
way," she went on, "or their curiosity will run riot. 
What would you suggest?" 

"Oh, let them suppose that I am a playwright 
whose work you are interested in." 

She accepted the idea. How delightful it was for 
me to share secrets with her! 

My particular purpose in making this call was to 
urge her again to take the jeweller into her confi- 



Thieves' Wit 



as 



dence. I pointed out to her that we could hope to 
do nothing unless we blocked the thief from dis- 
posing of the pearls. Very reluctantly she finally 
consented, stipulating, however, that the jeweller 
must be told that she had just discovered her loss. 
I explained to her that we must look back to make 
sure that the jewels had not already been offered 
for sale, but on this point she stood firm. She gave 
me a note of introduction to Mr. Alfred Mount. 

I delivered it the following morning. At this time 
Mount's was the very last word in fashion. It was 
a smallish store but most richly fitted up, on one of 
the best corners of the avenue, up near the cathe- 
dral. Every one of the salesmen had the air of a 
younger son of the aristocracy. They dealt only in 
precious stones, none of your common stuff like gold 
or silver. 

I was shown into a private ofice at the back, a 
gem of a private office, exquisite and simple. And 
in Mr. Alfred Mount I saw that I had a notable 
man. One guessed that he would have been a big 
man in any line. So far I knew him only as one of 
the city's leading jewellers. By degrees I learned 
that his interests were widespread. 

He was a man of about fifty who looked younger, 
owing to his flashing dark eyes, and his lips, full 
and crimson as a youth's. In a general way he had 
a foreign look, though you couldn't exactly place 
him as a Frenchman, an Italian or a Spaniard. It 
was only, I suppose, that he wore his black hair and 
curly beard a little more luxuriantly than a good 



a6 Thieves' Wit 

^'^"""" ^" «n«nner wai of the whole world. 
My involuntary firrt impretuon was dead against 
the man. He was too much in character with the 
•trange little orchid that decorated hit buttonhole. 
Later I decided that this was only my Anglo^axon 
narrowness. True, he kept a guard on his bright 
eyes, and his red lips were firmly closed— but do 
we not all have to train our features? He was a 
jeweller who earned his bread by kow-towing to the 
nch. My own fate was not an open book, yet I con- 
sidered myself a fairly honest creature. 

He read my letter of 'introduction which stated 
that I would explain my business to him. Upon his 
asking what that was I told him quietly that Miss 
Hamerton had been robbed of her pearls. 

He started in his chair, and pierced me through 
and through with those brilliant black eyes. 

"Give me the facts 1" he snapped. 

I did so. 

"But you," he said impatiently, "I don't know 
you." 

I offered him my card, and explained that Miss 
Hamerton had retained my services. 

He was sile-^t for a few moments, chewing his 
moustache. It was impossible to guess what was go- 
ing on behind the mask of his features. Suddenly 
he started to cross-question me like a criminal law- 
yer. How long had I been in business? Was I 
accustomed to handling big cases ? Had I any finan- 
cial standing? What references could I give? And 
So on, and so on. 



Thieves' Wit 27 

My patience finally gave way under it. "I bee 
your pardon." I .aid .tiffly. "I recognj^ the righf 

Tte^Tclfer" *" ""™" "' '" ^" ""--• 
og.«d hand.omely. Like all big men he wa. often 

n'ngly. You are qu.te right. I am terribly up.et 
by your new. I forgot my.elf. I confe... too. I 
•m hurt that Mi« Hamerton .hould have Jcted in 
old Wend'""" "* ''"* ^n'ulting me. I am a very 

I wa. glad .he had done so. for something told 
me I never .hould have got the job from him. I 
did not tell h.m how .he had come to engage me, 
though he gave me .everal opening, to do w. 
„er ""l "V ""':°T "»"•" he i-id in hi. bert man- 

you with all my power. 

I accepted the olive branch. "I .poke too ha.tily 
myself... I „^„,d. ..J ,^^u ^^ P^^ ^^ ^^y .t.ly 

anythmg you want to know about my.elf " 

a while. StiU that mstinctive dislike of the man 

''Have die pr ■ ce been notified?" he enquired. 
MI.. Hamerton impo.e8 absolute secrecy." 
Quite so, • he said quickly. "That is wist." 

I had my doubts of it, but I didn't air them 



28 



Thieves' Wit 



"Have you any clues?" he aaked. 
"None a« yet." 

"What do you want me to do?" 
"To publish the loss through the channels oi the 
trade, with the request that if any attempt is made 
to dispose of the pearls we should instantly be noti- 
fied. The owner's name, and the circumstances of 
the robbery must be kept secret." 

"Very good," be said, maJcing a memo on a pad. 
"I will attend to it at once, and discreetly. Is there 
anything else I can do?" 

"I hoped that with your knowledge of jewels and 
the jewel market you could give me something to 
work on," I said. 

"All I know is at your command," said he. He 
talked at length about jewels and jewel thieves, but 
it was all in generalities. There was nothing that I 
could get my teeth into. He gave it as his opinion 
that the pearls were already on the., way abroad, 
perhaps to India. 

"Then you think that the robbery was engineered 
by experts?" 

Kw spread out his expressive hands. "How can 

We parted with mutual expressions of good will. 
I said. "I expect I shall have to come often to you 
for help." 

"I expect you to," he said earnestly. "I want 
you to. Myself and my establishment are at your 
service. Let no question of expense hamper you." 



Thieves' Wit 39 

I found liter that he really meant thii. I wa 
however, very reluctant to draw on him. 
When I .aw Mi.. Hamerton the next day I a.ked 

wIaT"!'"" ''^'^° ""«"'•"« Mr. Alfred Mount 
with the object of finding out if he were reaUy .uch 
■n old friend a. he made out 

"T-'L^r^ ''''"''• l!"""" '*''"•" •'»« "'d 'imply- 
JrlA H^^L'" *° ''"y **•'"«• f'"" W" « merely 
mcdental. He wa. a friend of my father', and 
he 1. a very good friend to me. He ha. proved it 
more than once." provea it 

I wa. tempted to a,k: "Then why were you ,o 

itTT^V^'- ^'V"'" y°"' confidence?' B^t 

TtherwUe "" ^^ ""^ ""*"* '''"*• '"^ ""'" »"* 

I Jm '• '^?"' "'''^ '^ '"' ''»'* ""tifi^d the police," 
I said, merely to.ee how .he would take it 

I regretted it. Her expre..ion of pain and ter- 
ror went to my heart. She wa. no longer" ee 

,Oh you did not. you have not?" .he stammered. 
didn^S""' '"•''>"'^"^' "I knew you 

She turned away to recover herself. Whatwa.I 
o make of it? One would almost have .a d tha 
she wa. a party to the theft of her own jewel.. 

And yet only a few mmute. later ,he bur.t out in 
a passionate plea to me to discover the thief 

It torture, me I" she cried, "the .u.penw the 
uncertainty! Thi. atmo.phere of doubt' and *.! 



30 



Thieves' Wit 



picion is tuffocatingl I wish I never had had any 
pearls! I wish I were a farmer's daughter or a 
mill girl I Please, please settle it one way or the 
other. I shall never have a quiet sleep until I 
knowP' 

"Know what?" I asked quietly. 

But she made believe not to have heard me. 






T SPENT the next two or three days in quiet work 
X here and there. The most considerable ad- 

H"? ]. "^^^^ '''* '" P'*^'''"« *" acquaintance with 
McArdle, the property man of Miss Hamerton's 
company. Watching the stage door I discovered 
that the working-force behind the scenes frequented 
the back room of a saloon on Sixth avenue for lunch 
after the show. The rest was easy. By the third 
night McArdle and I were on quite a confidential 
footmg. 

From him I heard any amount of gossip. Mc- 
Ardle was of the garrulous, emotional type and very 
free with his opinions. The star was the only one 
he spared. From his talk I got the principal mem- 
bers of the company fixed in my mind. Beside Mr 
Quarles there was George Casanova, the heavy man, 
a well-known actor but, according to McArdle, a 
loud-mouthed, empty braggart, and Richard Rich- 
ards, the character heavy, a silly old fool, he said, 
devoured by vanity. Among the women the next 
m importance after the star was Miss Beulah Mad- 
dox, the heavy lady, who in the opinion of my ami- 
able informant giggled and ogled like a sewing-ma- 
chine girl, and she forty if she was a day. 

Discreet questioning satisfied me that McArdle 
was quite unaware that a robbery had been commit- 

3« 



32 



Thieves' Wit 



ted in the theatre. If he didn't know it, certainly 
it was not known. 

Out of bushels of gossip I sifted now and then a 
grain of valuable information. He informed me 
that Roland Quarles was in love with the star. Foi» 
some reason that I could not fathom he was espe- 
cially bitter against the young leading man. He 
would rail against him by the hour, but there seemed 
to be no solid basis for his dislike. 

"Does she favour him?" I asked. 

"Nahl" he said. "She's got too much sense. 
He's a four-flusher, a counter-jumper, a hall-room 
boy! Lord I the airs he gives himself you'd think 
he had a million a year! He's a tail-ender with 
her, and he knows it. He's sore." 

"Who seems to be ahead of him?" I asked with 
strong curiosity. 

"There's a dozen regulars," said McArdle. "Two 
Pittsburgh millionaires, a newspaper editor, a play- 
wright and so on. But if you ask me, the jeweller 
is ahead in the running." 

"The jeweller?" I said, pricking up my cars. 

"Spanish looking gent with whiskers," said Mc- 
Ardle. "Keeps a swell joint on the avenue. 
Mount, his name is. He's a wise guy, does the old 
family friend act, see? He's a liberal feller. I 
hope he gets her." 

This bit of information gave me food for thought. 
I thought it explained my intuitive dislike of Mount. 
The thought of that old fellow presuming to court 
the exquisite Irma made me hot under the collar. 



Thieves' Wit 33 

I went to the store of Roberts, the manufacturer 
of artificial pearls. This place was as well-known 
in Its way as Mount's, since Roberts had sued the 
Duke of Downshire and the public had learned that 
the pearls His Grace had presented to Miss Van 
Alstinc on the occasion of their marriage were— 
phony. It also was a very fancy establishment but 
like Its wares, on a much less expensive scale. 

I fell in with a sociable and talkative young sales- 
man, who at my request showed me a whole tray 
fuU of pearl necklaces. Among them I spotted an- 
other replica of Miss Hamerton's beautiful string 

"What's this ?" I asked carelessly. 

"Blue pearls," he rattled off. "Latest smart 
novelty. A hit. Mrs. Minturn Vesey had one sent 
up only yesterday. She wore it to the opera last 
night." 

"There isn't such a thing really as a blue pearl. 
IS there?" I asked idly. 

rJ'^T"'^^' ^^^^^ "^ '^"P'" °f ««""'"« stones 
like aU our stock. Some time ago a customer sent 
in the real necklace to have it copied, like they all 
do. This was such a novelty Mr. Roberts had a 
pattern made and put them on sale. It's a winner I" 
"I wouldn't want a thing everybody had bought." 
I said. 

"I don't mean everybody," he said. "But just a 
few of the very smartest. It's too expensive for 
everybody. Seven hundred and fifty. The original 
IS priceless." 

"How many have you sold?" 



34 



Thieves' Wit 



"About ten." 

"Who else bought them?" 

He reeled oS a string of fashicnable names. 

"That's oi.!y six." 

"The others were sold over the counter." 

The affable youngster was a little aggrieved when 
I left without buying. 

Mr. Mount was both surprised and deeply cha- 
grined when I told him that exact replicas of Miss 
Hanierton's pearls were to be had at Roberts' by 
anybody with the price. He didn't see how he could 
stop it either. It appeared there was a standing 
feud between Roberts and the fashionable jewellers, 
in which Roberts had somewhat the advantage be- 
cause the regular trade was obliged to employ him. 
No one else could make such artificial pearls. 

With Mr. Mount's assistance I had the sales of 
the replicas quietly traced. Nothing resulted from 
this. All but two of the sales were to persons above 
suspicion. These two had been sold over the 
counter, one to a man, one to a woman, and as the 
transactions were over two months old, I could not 
get a working description of the buyers. 

On another occasion I went into Dunsany's, the 
largest and best-Jcnown jewelry store in America, if 
not in the world, and asked to see some one who 
could give me some information about pearls. I 
was steered up to a large, pale gentleman wearing 
glasses, very elegantly dressed, of course. I put on 
my most youthful and engaging manner. I heard 
him addressed as Mr. Freer. 



Thieves' Wit 



35 



"Look here," I said, "I expect you'll want to have 
me thrown out for bothering you, but I'm in a hole." 

My smile disarmed him. "What can I do for 
you?" he asked impressively, 

"I'm a fiction writer," I said. "I'm writing a 
story about blue pearls, and somebody told me there 
was no such thing. Was he right?" 

"Sometimes the black pearl has a bluish light in 
it," said Mr. Freer. "But it would take an expert 
to distinguish it. Such pearls are called blue pearls 
in the trade." 

"I suppose you haven't got one you could show 
me?" I said. 

He shook his head. "They rarely rome into the 
market. There is only one place in New York where 
they may be found." 

"And that Is?" 

"Mount's. Mr. Alfred Mount has a hobby for 
collecting them. Naturally when a blue pearl ap- 
pears it is generally offered first to him. You'd bet- 
ter go to see him. He knows more about blue pearls 
than any man in the world." 

"One more question?" I said cajolingly, "in my 
story I have to imagine the existence of a necklace 
of sixty-seven blue pearls ranging in size from a cur- 
rant down to a pea, all perfectly matched, perfect in 
form and lustre. If there was such a thing what 
would it be worth?" 

When I described the necklace I received a mild 
shock, for the pale eyes of the man who was watch- 
ing me suddenly contracted like a frightened ani- 



36 



Thieves' Wit 



mal's. The muscles of his large pale face never 
moved, but I saw the eyes bolt. He smiled stiffly. 

"I couldn't say," he said. "Its value would be 
fabulous." 

"But give me some idea," I said, "just for the 
salce of the story." 

He moistened his lips. "Oh, say half a million," 
he said. "It would not be too much." 

I swallowed my astonishment, and thanked him, 
and made my way out. 

Here was more food for cogitation. Why should 
a few idle questions throw the pearl expert at Dun- 
sany's into such visible agitation? I had to give it 
up Perhaps it was a twinge of indigestion or a 
troublesome corn. Anyhow I lost sight of it in the 
greater discovery. Half a million for the necklace, 
and Miss Hamerton had told me that buying it pearl 
by pearl it had cost her little more than twenty-five 
thousand I 



Meanwhile there was an idea going through my 
head that I had not quite nerve enough to open to 
my client. It must be remembered that though I 
was making strides, I was still green at my business. 
I was not nearly so sure of myself as my manner 
might have led you to suppose. To my great joy 
Miss Hamerton herself broached the subject. 

One afternoon she said, apropos of nothing that 
had gone before : "I'm sorry now that I introduced 
you to my friends. Though I do not see how I 
could have seen you without their knowing it." 



Thieves' Wit 



37 



"Why sorry?" I asked. 

She went on with charming diffidence— how was 
one to resist her when she pleaded with an humble 
air: "I have thought— if it would not tie you down 
too closely— that you might take a minor role in my 
company." 

My heart leaped— but of course I was not going 
to betray my eagerness if I could help it. 

"As to your friends having seen me," I said, "that 
doesn't make any difference. Disguise is part of 
my business." 

"Then will you?" she eagerly asked. 
I made believe to consider it doubtfully. "It 
would tie me down I" I said. 

"Oh, I hope you can arrange it I" she said. 
"Could it be managed without exciting comment 
m the company?" 

"Easily. I have thought it all out. I have an 
assistant stage manager who plays a small part. By 
increasing his duties behind, I can in a perfectly nat- 
ural way make it necessary to engage somebody to 
play his bit. I shall not appear in the matter." 
"I have had no experience," I objected. 
"I win coach you." 
Could I resist that? 

"It would be better to put in an operative." 
"Oh, no I No one but you I" 
"Well, I'll manage it somehow," I said. 
She sighed with relief, and started that moment 
io coach me. 



"You are a thug, a desperate character. You 



ap- 



38 



Thieves' Wit 



pear ijp only one scene, a cellar dimly lighted, so 
you will not be conspicuous from in front. You 
must practise speaking in a throaty, husky growl." 
In order to prolong the delightful lessons I made 
out to be a little stupider than I was. 

I was engaged the next day but one through a 
well-known theatrical agent where Miss Hamerton 
had instructed me to apply for a job. Just how she 
contrived it I can't say, but I know I came into the 
company without ^anybody suspecting that it was 
upon the star's recommendation. In the theatre, of 
course, she ignored me. 

Two nights later I made my debut. Mine was 
such a very small part no one in the company paid 
any attention to me, but for me it was a big occa- 
sion, I can tell you. In the way of business I have 
faced death on several occasions with a quieter ' rart 
than I had upon first marching out into view of 
that thousand-headed creature across the footlights. 
With the usual egotism of the amateur I was sure 
they were all waiting to guy me. But they didn't. 
I spoke my half dozen lines without disaster. I 
felt as if the real me was sitting up in the flies watch- 
ing his body act down below. Indeed, I could write 
several chapters upon my sensations that night, but 
as somebody else has said, that is another story. 

What is more important is the discovery of my 
first piece of evidence. 

At the end of the performance I was crossing the 
quiet stage on my way out of the theatre, when I 
saw a group of stage-hands and swne of the minor 



Thieves' Wit 39 

members of the company by the stage-door with their 
heads together over a piece of paper. I joined the 
group, takmg care not to bring myself forward. An- 
other happened along, and he asked for me: 
'What's the matter?" 

Richards answered: "McArdle here found a 
piece of paper on the stage with funny writing on 
«t. It's a mystery like." 
"Let's have a squint at it," said the newcomrr. 
I looked over his shoulder. It was a single sheet 
of cheap note-paper of the style they call "dimity." 
It had evidently been torn from a pad. It seemed 
to be the last of several sheets of a letter, and it 
was written m a cryptogram which made my mouth 
water. I may say that I have a passion for this 
kmd of a puzzle. I give it as I first saw it : 

&FQZZDRR CV REW RIPN PFRHO at ri-rxf 
gGffT EP FOBQ IVTO^MXKlfS -^XD^ 

S CEDBBWYB SWOCNA VMD YbV rr auexiv 
NCA&MW&M&L. HZF EDM HmzUM ?Kn 
BSCOAIIQW ZXK FJOP WOD ITWX DwJy? 

wnS'7"Jc°*«JT LSZAND EBcS^nSfP 
VEDFSF. BSQ ZWVXJ YXM H PL GC DCR FPHV 
EA&BO ULS RLZQ WB NELI KZNFm 1^?^* 7 
CSQVEVDEV-FBACPI S'wKsSiTBEHHZ^- 

J. 

Ihad no proof on beholding this meaningless as- 
sortment of letters that it had anything to do with 
my case, but I h:.d a hunch. The question was how 
to get possession of it without showing my hai 1 



40 



Thieves' Wit 



I kept silent for a while, and let the ditcustlon rage 
at to the proper way to translate it. 

My excitable friend McArdle (who did not know 
me, of course, in my present character), naturally 
as the finder of the paper took a leading part in the 
discussion. The principals of the company had not 
yet emerged from their dressing-rooms. My oppor- 
tunity came when McArdle stated in his positive way 
that it was a code, and that it was not possible to 
translate it without having the code-book. 

"A code is generally regular words," I suggested 
mildly, as became the m'west and humblest member 
of the company. "Nobody would ever think up 
these crazy combinations of letters. I should say 
it was a cryptogram." 

McArdle wouldn't acknowledge that he didn't 
know what a cryptogram was, but somebody else 
asked. 

"Substituting one letter for another according to 
a numerical key," I said. "Easy enough to trans- 
late it if you can hit on the key." 

One thing led to another and soon came the in- 
evitable challenge. 

"Bet you a dollar you can't read it I" cried Mc- 
Ardle. 

I hung back until the whole crowd joined him in 
taunting me. 

"Put up or shut up I" cried McArdle. 

The upshot was that we each deposited a dollar 
with old Tom the doorkeeper, and I took the paper 
home. 



Thieves' Wit 41 

It wa» th« moit ingeniou* and difficult cryptogram 
I ever tackled. The sun wa. up before I got it It 
was a richer prize than I had hoped for. Here it ii : 

"divosed of and your share of the money ii here 
whenever you want to get it. / • = 

I strongly advise you not to leave the company, 
rou say she has not discovered her loss. AU right 
But these phony pearls soon lose their lustre. She 

TJStHi^ °" Ti.'* *'"' 'r? ^'«^^ r» '""d in your 
resignation. Then good-night. I'll be back l^on- 

•For the benefit of tho,e of curioui mindi I wilt giv/i/k™ 

It m.y be the on. before it. the one .fter it. or . purely .rt,l- 

^T Itf that [" Hh."". "" ••"• '•"" "-^t. ^. 

. .. . ?^ ^ •on.eta.ng more compln. ObMrre that in 

form- "MwiMi^T"'' ""'<"'."•'•«'» '» *" ««r«.rdin.nr 
lorm. ftMWtM&U Here w.t a awbrealcerl To make a Ion. 
..ory .hoH I diKov.red after hundred, of experiment that th! 

W^ .Ah "/" "? "• *""'y-««. ««'" b««in over from te" 

1. .K J "" "»""'""«!»"• by including the charwser & 

.. the tw.„jr...„n,h letter of the alphabet Th, fragt^ntaiy 
«n«nc. at th. top of the page held m, up for a Ion, T. „«« 
va„r„7!K '•" "" ""i '"*" "•• '""•y-*™ number, in ri 
:rd °.l Z S^.. *-"•' -""^" "» ^ P- •* *. wHt.r 



IN my experience I have found in adopting a dis- 
guise that it is no less important to change the 
character than the personal appearance. As the new 
member of Miss Hamerton's company I called my- 
self William Faxon. I appeared as a shabby, gen- 
teel little fellow with lanky hair and glasses. The 
glasses were removed only when I went on the stage 
in the dark scene. On top of my bald spot I wore 
a kind of transformation that my friend Oscar Nil- 
son furnished. It combed into my own hair, was 
sprinkled with grey and made me look like a man on 
the shady side of forty somewhat in need of a bar- 
ber. The character I assumed was that of a gentle, 
friendly little party who agreed with everybody. 
The people of the company mostly despised me and 
made me a receptacle for their egotistical outpour- 
ings. They little guessed how they bored me. 

When I joined the company it had been agreed 
between Miss Hamerton and I that thereafter she 
had better come to the office to hear my reports. It 
was her custom to call nearly every afternoon about 
five. She insisted on hearing every detail of my 
activities, and listened to the story from day to day 
with the same anxious interest. 

Since she had first broken out in my presence she 
seemed not to mind to show her feelings to me. 
■4* 



Thieves' Wit 43 

Indeed I gue..ed that it w.. . kind of relief to the 
high^ning woman who wa. alw.y, i„ the limelight, 
to let herself go a little. Her implied confidence 
wa. venr grat.fy,„g to me. She never gave me the 

t^I f u"''."*?' "* •" """y ''°"^'< «>"t by thi. 

time 1 was begmnmg to gueu the explanation, ai I 
suppose you are, too. 

to J^5?n i^"' '^."•P^"«'^ '^' cryptogram I went 
to bed m high satisfaction. I knew then that I was 
on the nght track. The man (or woman) I was 
after was m M.s. Hamerton's company. I ,lept 
unt.1 afternoon. Mi„ Hamerton had expected nS 

She said she couldn't come, but the coast was clear, 
and could I come to her ? ' 

I found her pale and distrait. "Not bad news ?" 
she asked apprehensively. "I'm „ot equal to iti" 

you?" itSFecfeV """' """ '• ''' '"' '^ *<> 

She ignored the complaint. 

When I explained the circumstances of the finding 
of the cryptogram, and showed her my translation I 
received another surprise. A sigh escaped he ; an 
her^aT T?"'''^ """' •"'' 8'»d""» came inlo 
j^ped up.""'' """ ""'™''* *° ''" ='^"'"- She 
"You're a welcome messenger I" she cried. "Oh 

kZJr^^^ "°''' ^ ''°"'' ^°"^ ""y ""o"' I 

J 'HT" ^■^°:'^'^ "'"^ She laughed at 
me. Don't mmd me I" she begged. "You're 



44 



Thieves' Wit 



on the right track I You'll soon know everything!" 
She moved around the room humming to herself 
like a happy girl. She buried her face in a bowl of 
roses and caressed them tenderly. "If I knew who 
had sent them," I thought, "perhaps it would give 
me a clue." But what had the cryptogram to do 
with it? 

Suddenly to my surprise she said: "Stay and have 
dinner with me here, Mr. Enderby. I was going 
to a party, but I will send regrets. I don't want to 
be with any of them I I'm so happy I I would 
either have to hide it, or explain it. I want to be 
myself for a while." 

I did not require much persuasion. It was like 
dming in Fairyland! By tacit consent we avoided 
any reference to the case. I shall never forget tliat 
hour as long as I live. We were alone, for the un- 
pleasant Mrs. Bleecker thinking that Miss Hamer- 
lon was dining out, had gone oS to some friends of 
hers. 

Afterwards I went hotf: to disguise myself, and 
then proceeded to the theatre. I had already photo- 
graphed the cryptogram, and put the negative in my 
safe. McArdle was lying in wait for me, and I 
allowed him to drag it out of me, that I had not been 
able to translate it. He collected the stakes in high 
^ec. 

The paper was passed from hand to hand until it 
literally fell to pieces. No one could make any- 
thing of it of course. I encouraged the talk and 
helped circulate the paper, and watched from behind 



Thieves' Wit 45 

my innocent pieces of window-glass for some one to 
betray himself. But I saw nothing. The convic- 
tion was forced on me that I hid a mighty clever one 
to deal with. 

During my long waits I loitered from dressinjr- 
room to dressing-room, and let them talk. As op- 
portunit.es presented themselves I quietly searched 
tor the first page of that letter, though I supposed it 
had been destroyed. 

Eighteen actors and actresses and a working force 
of SIX comprised the field of my explorations. 
However, the fact that punctuation played a part in 
the cryptogram not to speak of the choice of words 
convinced me that both the writer and reader of it 

nated the ilhterates. This reduced me at one stroke 
to hve men and four women. Of these two of the 
men were obviously too silly and vain to have carried 
out such a nervy piece of work, while one of the 
women was a dear old lady who had been on the 
stage for half a century, and another was a bit of 
dandelion fluff These exclusions left me with five, 

mT R^^rxl"• ^'°'-«' ^^'"'"°^''' Kenton 
Milbourne, Beulah Maddox and Mary Gray 

Roland Quarles I have already mentioned. Both 
he and Casanova were actors of established reputa- 
tions who had been in receipt of handsome salaries 
for some seasons. I scarcely considered them. 
Milbourne was my dark horse. He was a hatchet- 
faced mdividual, homely, uninteresting, unhealthy- 
Jooking. His fancy name sat on him strangely. He 



46 



Thieves' Wit 



looked like a John Doe or a Joe WL' ..ns. Miss 
Maddox wis a large woman of the gushing-bysterical 
type ; Miss Gray a quiet well-bred girl who kept to 
herself. 

While I concentrated on those named, I did not, 
however, overlook the doings of the others. With 
all the men I was soon on excellent terms but the 
women baffled me. Women naturally despise a man 
of the kind I made out to be. You can't win a 
woman's confidence without making love to her, and 
that was out of my line. 

On Thursday night of the week after I joined, 
Miss Beauchkmp, who played a maid's part, spoiled 
a scene of Miss Hamerton's by missing her cue. It 
was not the first oSense, and she was fired on the 
spot. This girl was the bit of fluff I have mentioned. 
The occasion suggested an opportunity to me. 
There was no time to be lost so I went to Miss 
Hamerton at once. In my humble, shabby char- 
acter I meekly bespoke the part for a "friend." 
Miss Hamerton was startled. She said she would 
consider it. 

I had no sooner got home that night than she 
called me up to ask what I had meant. I did not 
want to argue with her over the telephone, so I 
asked her to see me next morning. She said she 
would come to my office as soon as she had break- 
fasted. 

Using all my powers of persuasion it took me 
more than an hour to win her consent to my putting 
a woman operative in the vacant part. Not only 



Thieves' Wit 47 

did I have to have a woman in the conipany, I told 
fter, but 1 needed an assistant outside. Not bv 
working twenty-four hours a day could I track down 
all the clues that opened up. She would never have 

comfort she had found in the cryptogram 

The rehearsal was caUed for three and I had 
barely time to get hold of my girl. 

This brings me to Sadie Farrell, a very important 
character m my story. 

I had been keeping company with her for a short 
wh.le At least I considered that I did, though she 
demed .t^ She scorned me. That was her way. 
Sadie had always lived at home. Her father and 
mother were dead now, and she lived with her sister. 
Like all home girls she was crazy to see a bit of life 
Her heart was set on being a high^Iass detective! 
That was the only hold I had over her. I had 
promised her that the first time I had occasion to 
engage a woman operative, I would take her. 

Moreover, Sadie was full of curiosity concerning 
Miss Hamerton, whose praises I was always singing 
She was never jealous though. Sadie had a wise 
itt e head, and she knew the difference between the 
feehng I had for that wonderful woman, and for her 
darling self. 

Sadie was at home when I got there. "What, 
you/ she said, making out to be bored to death "I 
thought I was going to have a peaceful afternoon." 

1 couldn t resist teasing her a little. "Cheer up " 



48 



Thieves' Wit 



I* 



I said. "I'm going right away again. I thought 
maybe you'd like to come out with me." 

"On a week day!" she said scornfully. "Run 
along with you, man, I've got something better 
to do." 

"I bet I can make you come," I said. 
She tossed her head. "You know very well you 
can't make me do anything." 

"I brt you a dollar I can make you come." 
She smelled a mouse. "What are you getting 
at?" she demanded. 

"I wanted to take you to the theatre." 
"It's too late, for a matinee." 
"Hew about a rehearsal?" 
Hi eyes sparkled. "A rehearsal! Wouldn't 
that be wonderful I Oh, you're only fooling me." 

"Not at all," I said, "Miss Hamerton herself in- 
vited you." 

"Miss Hamerton! Shall I see her?" 
"Sure. And what's more, you are the person to 
be rehearsed." 

She simply stved at me. 

"She offers you a small pat; in her company," I 
drawled. 

"Af<r/" said the amazed Sadie. "Why— how- 
how did it happen ?" 

"Well you see, I have come to the point where I 
need an operative in the company, and I got her to 
take you." 
"When is it?" she gasped. 



Thieves' Wit 49 

minl'sTo/'""''" ' "'^- ^^—''^ twenty 

Ject" ™'nl'' i° "' ""'^ ''''' "y ""» « little 
squeeze. Oh, Ben, you darling fool I" she cried 

mu?t"do' ^? ''°''" *°7 ^ ~"'^'»"=d ^" in what she 
must do. She mustn't let it be suspected that she 

^LTVI:'^. 5'^°"- S"^ "-'t^U the stage 
manager she had been sent by Mrs. Mendoza. the 
agent. She must ask forty dollars a week" and come 

waT" K ?•• ^^' •""" "»''' °"t that the par 
was much mfer.or to those she had been plavSng. 

whirl M- "ir"""' '^' "" *° -•"» to my office 
where M.ss Hamerton would meet us. and give h'; 
a lesson m making up. 

bir?,^!"/'".?'^ T.*^^'*^ '''^ '^'^ «ttle head like a 
bird and sa.d nothmg. Only at the prospect of re- 
ceiving mstruction from the wonderful Irma Hamer- 
ton herself, did her eyes gleam again. I didn't have 
une then eo tell her what she ha5 to know abou^I 

theLe ih. / ^" ""* "* *' '*''^'°" ""««t the 
theatre, while I went on to my office. It was safer 

o^^^ourse for me not to appear at the rehearsal ^ 
oaaie s sponsor. 

ably. If I had had, no matter what my personal 

h- "a^e'StV'"'' "°^ '.'''' -Plo/ed'her^ 
tnis case But she was as wise as she was pretty 
Under those scornful airs she was as true as'S 



50 



Thieves' Wit 



faculty of keeping a close 



and she had the rare 
tongue in her head. 

Sadie had a sort of Frenchy look, long, nirrow 
eyes and pointed chin. This just happened to suit 
the part of the maid in the play. If I had looked a 
month I could not have found a better girl, not to 
speak of the pleasure I anticipated in working side 
by side with my own girl. Moreover, I was hoping 
by my conduct of the case to force Sadie to admit 
that I was not quite such a bonehead as she liked to 
make out. 

Everything went off as planned. Sadie I heard, 
made a good impression at rehearsal, and at a nod 
from Miss Hamerton, the stage manager engaged 
her. Miss Hamerton told me afterwards that Sadie 
went through the rehearsal like an old stager. 
They arrived at my office separately, and the lesson 
in making up was given. Miss Hamerton laid her- 
self out to be kind to Sadie. I think she scented a 
romance. Anyhow, inside five minutes Sadie was 
hers body and soul. Like me, she would have 
stopped at nothing to serve her. 

After that I told Sadie all the facts in the case. 
In her woman's way of reasoning she arrived at the 
same conclusion that I had reached after my style. 

"It's the work of a clever gang," she said. "They 
have put a member, perhaps more than one in the 
company." 

"But what a lot of trouble to take," I objected, 
"since the necklace was not known to be of any great 
value." 



Thieves' >Vit 51 

"Somebody knew." 

"If they knew about blue pearl, they must alto 
have known that Mount wa, the only buyer." 

Maybe they were .hipped to India," ,he .aid. 
I .u.pect that Ea.t Indian, have forgotten more 
about pearl, than Mr. Mount ever knew " 

sJiA ""I^a"' *''"'/'*' »PP"«d °n the .tage, 
Sadie justified my confidence in her power, Not 

with,tanding the excitement of making her debut, .he 

managed to keep her wit, about her Women «e 

rtage ,he had to wait at one .ide for few minute, 
T T„ J J / "conversation on the other ,ide of it 

e?olTto ' '' • '"1."°* •>"" '" "•» --p'^y W 

enough to recognise the voice,. r / is 

A man ,aid. "Ye., .ir, forty thousand dollars." 

"I«r> :"?f«P'y- "How do you know?" 
I «w ,t entered m hi, bank book. I wa, in his 

weroriTorn ' "^ '^ °" ^''^ *»"»• wh^ h 

went out I looked m it out of curiosity. He de 
pos^d forty thousand doUar, last wee?' 

Where do you suppose he got it?" 

Search me." 

"Some fellows have all the luck, don't they?" 
1 Hen the voices passed out of hearing. 



1HAVE not mentioned Mr. Alfred Mount lately 
though I saw him often on matters connected 
with the case. He was an interesting character. It 
was only by degrees .hat I realised what an extraor- 
dinary man I had to deal with. After our first 
meeting his manner towards me completely changed. 
He appeared to be sorry for his brusqueness on that 
occasion. Now he was all frankness and friendli- 
ness. Nothing crude, you understand, just the air 
of one man of the world towards another. I could 
not help but feel flattered by it. 

While we worked together so amicably the mutual 
antagonism remained. I knew he still resented Miss 
Hamerton's having employed me without consulting 
him, and I believ<!:d that he was working indepen- 
dently. For my part, you may be sure, I told him 
nothing but what I had' to. I found no little plea- 
sure in blocking his subtle questioning by my air of 
clumsy innocence. I told him nothing about the 
cryptogram. 

I never called at his office again. Sometimes he 
dropped into mine, his bright eyes wandering all 
around, but more often I called on him at his apart- 
ment over the store. For he occupied the second 
floor of the beautiful little building which housed 
his business. There was however nothing of the old- 



Thieves' Wit 



S3 



fashioned ihop-keeper about his place. I never saw 
such splendour before or since. But it took you a 
while to realise that it was splendour, for there was 
nothing showy or garish. Everything he possessed 
was the choicest of its kind in the world. Even with 
my limited knowledge, when I stopped to figure up 
the value of what I saw, I was staggered. I saw 
enough at different times to furnish several million- 
aires. 

Mount had a strange love for his treasures in 
which there was nothing of the usual self-glorifica- 
tion of millionaires. He had a modest, ahnost a 
tender, way of referring to his things, of handling 
them. I learned quite a lot about tapestries, rugs, 
Chmese porcelains, enamels, ivories and gold work- 
manship from his talk. He did not care for paint- 
ings. 

"Too insistent," he said. "Paintings wiU not 
merge." 

The man was full of queer sayings, which he 
would drawl out with an eye to the effect he was 
creating on you. 

He never allowed daylight to penetrate to his 
prmcipal room, a great hall two stories hi^, lined 
with priceless tapestries. 

^^ "Daylight is rude and unmanageable," he said. 
Artificial light I can order to suit my mood." 

Another odd thing was his antipathy to red. 
That colour almost never appeared in his treasures. 
In the tapestries greens predominated; the rugs were 
mostly old blues and yellows. The great room 



54 



Thieves' Wit 



never looked quite the tame. Sometimet it was 
completely metamorphoied over night. I under- 
stood from something he let f aU that the other floors 
of the building were stored with his treasures. He 
had them brought down and arranged according to 
his fancy. The only servrmt ever visible was a silent 
Hindoo, who sometimes appeared in gorgeous 
Eastern costume, encrusted with jewels. It occurred 
to me that that was how his master ought to dress. 
The sober clothes of a business man, however ele- 
gant, were out of place on Mount. Long afterwards 
I learned that it was his custom when tilone to array 
himself like an Eastern potentate, but I never saw 
him dressed that 'way. 

One day, to see what he would say, I asked him 
point blank what was the value of Miss Hamerton's 
lost pearls. 

He consulted a note-book. "She paid me at dif- 
ferent times exactly twenty-five thousand, seven hun- 
dred for them." 

"I know," I said quietly. "But what was their 
value?" 

He bored me through and through with his jetty 
eyes before answering. FinaUy he smiled— he had 
a charming smile when he chose, and spread out his 
hands in token of surrender. His hands were too 
white and beautiful for ^ man's. 

"I see you know the truth," he said. "Well— I 
am in your hands. I hope you will keep the secret. 
Only a great deal of unhappiness could result from 
its becoming known." 



Thieves' Wit 55 

"I •htU not tell," I aaid "P„» l» . 

they worth." "* ^'^^ ""'•» «« 

"^««I'y couldn't My," he laid franklv "Ti.. 
;. nothin, like then, in tte worSlt^ to J^H 

S-hJUcEcoX"'^^^ 
;;Wouldn;t they be di/Hcult to dispose of ?" 

tion." '• "^ ''°P" '" *^« P««« "tua. 

tinU?" ^°" """"^ *''• *''^ ""'^ ^h" h' wa, get. 

"I doubt it. To distinguish the blue cast is a fad 
of^my own. They ordinarily go with the W,ck 

"&IIT ''""*"'■."''* '° ''•' '"''J«« °f his own accord 

?o!b?oVMi.?Air;^^^^ '"' ^°" --^^^ '•»- • 

"No danger of that," I ,aid quickly. 

wondermg .f I p„,umed to rival him there He 
immediately went on 8i..oothIy 

"She, of course, ha-, no suspic... i of the true v.I,.^ 
of the pearls. Nor docs she guess that Si;*;" 
in my possession for years I Ut h.l u 1 
one or two at a time.' Do y u lat m:i^h': 
spread out his expressive hands again ^' 

world" h.";!. ""T ''/r*'^"' P«''» i° «« the 

S;dge\Td~; ,r„^ '^etllt °' '" "^ 

notpearls. Only^h^n thlj lie'on t^riiTos^m 



56 



Thieves' Wit 






of a woman are pearli really pearh. I wiihed to 
have the pleasure of aeeing Irma— MIm Hamerton 
wearing them. I could not give them to her. So 
I deviled this innocent deception. Wouldn't you 
have done the tame?" 

Maybe I would. Anyhow I didn't feel called 
upon to argue the matter with him, to I kept my 
mouth shut. 

Hia long eyea narrowed. "If yr,u had leen her 
wear the real pearls you would understand better," 
he said dreamily. "They glowed as if with pleasure 
in their situation. Her skin is so tender that the 
veins give it a delicate bluish cast exactly matched by 
my exquisite pearls 1" 

To nie there was something— what would you say, 
something delicately indecent in the way Mount 
spoke of Miss Hamerton. It made me indignant 
deep down. But I said nothing. 

"I am a fool about precious stones," he went on 
with that disarming smile. "No shop-keeper has 
any right to indulge in a personal passion for his 
wares. Pearls come first with me, then diamonds. 
Would you like to see my diamonds?" 

Without waiting for any answer he disappeared 
mto the next room. I heard the ring of a burglar- 
proof lock. Presently he returned bearing a little 
black velvet cushion on which lay a necklet of Ream- 
ing fire. 

"I am no miser," he said smiling. "Quantity 
does not appeal to me, nor mere bigness. Only 
quality. This is my whole collection, seventy-two 



Thieves' Wit 57 

itonei, the reiult of thirty ye«ri* .earth for perfec- 
tion. 

I gazed at the fiery ipoti ipeechleiily. Before 
taking thii caM I had never thought much of pre- 
cioui itonei. They had teemed like pretty thing, 
to me, and umIcsi. But upon looking at these I 
could understand Miu H.merton'i reference to her 

•^ J •,".'."""» *•*'"«•• ■'''«« di'mondi were alive 
-^eyiluhly aliye. They twinkled up at Mount like 
complaiiant little slave* outvying each other to flat- 
ter their master. The sheer beauty of them caught 
"t the breast. Their fire bit into a man's soul. See- 
ing It, I could understand the ancient lusts to rob and 
murder for bits of stone like these. 
•'Aren't they lovely?" Mount murmured 
Yes, like a snake," I blurted out. 

I We dim'^' "^''" '"""* '""" •*""*" ^ ""• 

"Put them away!" I said. 

He continued to laugh. He caressed the dia- 
monds with his long, white fingers. "Wouldn't you 
like to see Miss Hamerton wear them?" he asked 
softly. 

"No by GodI" I cried. "She's a good woman." 

Me laughed more than ever. It was a kind of 
Unental laugh, soft, unwholesome. "I'm afraid 
you suffer from the Puriun confusion of the ideas of 
beauty and evil," he said. 

"Maybe I do," I said shortly. 

"Some other time I will show you my emeralds 
and sapphires," he said. 



58 



Thieves' Wit 



I hated the things, yet I was eager to see them. 
1 hat shows the effect they had on you. I was struck 
by his omission of rubies. 

"How about rubies?" I asked. 

He shivered. "I do not care for rubies. Thev 
are an ugly color." 

I welcomed the chill, raw air of the street after 
that scented chamber. After the elegant coUector 
ot jewels my crude and commonplace fellow-citizens 
•eenjied aU that was honest and sturdy. I was proud 
of them. Yet I enjoyed going to Mount's rooms, 
too. One could count on being thrilled one way or 
another. ' 



A eoZ, / " ' '^""""^ "" ''°™« of the 
ifenT", ^ "^ 1"" "y «lcuIation.-though I .till 
kept an eye on them through Sadie Of7l»^J^ t 
had most to do with two. Roland Quarl^^dCon 
Mdhourne, the first because I liked hir.„dT 
second because I didn't ' ^ ** 

Q»rl», n». „, «,.„!, 21t.t ^rZ o1 
such a plan, or to h de it afterward* T AiTuZ 

with him the less I knew Y^t I.. j:-i 
jljvea^ardoverhim";?. nai'/se'^^rinS:: 

fJS bind' '*'^ °' '•" bank-book rS 
not w^ceed in finding out even if he possessed «,ch 

veto's'.?; " P"'y'.''«^'>»*-f-ed individual. 
excXr^;'Xir"That" '" t ™""''' '"^ 

eve« h* k.^ *i. I I , "^earures and narrow-set 
eye. he had the look of a crook right enough, but 

S9 



6o 



Thieves' Wit 



1a\u^ I ".".."°^ '° miportant as disposition, 
and this heavy, duU-witted, verbose feUow was the 
epitome of respectability. He was not at all popu- 
lar m the company, principaUy, I fancy, because of 
his over-nicety. He bragged of the number of baths 
he took. He was not "a good feUow." He never 
joked nor carried on with the crowd. In the play 
he took the part of a brutal thug, a sort of BiU Sykes, 
and played it well though there was nothing in his 

ITX'^IV^ "*f '* *' P""- "« ^" *« fox. 
not the bull^Iog Imagine a man with the appear- 

iSubourac ""** *' "^'^ °' * '*'"'' ""'^ y°" '''''" 
Shortly after I joined the company I was allotted 
to share his dressing-room. He told me that he 
had requested the stage-manager to make the change, 
because he objerted to the personal habits of his 
fomer roommate So I had every opportunity to 
observe him. A lot of good it did me. He talked 
me to sleep He would recite all the news of the 
day which I had just read for myself, and commented 
oiMt like a country newspaper. You couldn't stop 

Roland Quarles I cultivated for a different reason. 
•I u"°f./"'f "^ •""■ A» « PoP"!" '"ding juve- 

el\„H 'k "' '^"" ^^'^ ''"" "^"^ » *h*P"Wic 
eye and there was no reason in the world save pure 

cussedness why he should be a thief. I liked him 
1 was working hard, but one can't be a detective 
every waking minute. I sought out Roland to for- 
get ray work. I had started disinterestedly with the 



Thieves' Wit gj 

"%• He waf hat d by "l tt ™ ' ">» V"-*^» 
P«ny, because he desoised thl' / ? u °^ ^''^ "">- 
took no pain, to S bI .K °'"'* """''• »"d 
I niay say all women „t « *''' '^°'"'" '"'^d him. 

notpUhLrfrsrr:rsii'j;r- "^^^ 

-d^ieTe^aTriteesf °''"? ""^ ^'-^-l. 
his bearing. I„ th^t »„„„ " '^°"'^""'*"«» of it in 

alone. He had a sort „7 * !,°""« "^°" '^^ «°od 
or as a novelfst wo^u dljTe 'se""?' ' "J."" "'^' 
secret sorrow. His iT'Au T**^ "^ '=''«"»'» « 
mous. HcuTedt„.H«" ."l*' ^''"*« ^" enor. 
ing at it ° '*"* •' "" *••• P°*« without look. 

^rL^ln7ofT%1't ';* ^'""^^^ '"™ '"•» 
Milboume were Ae onlv "k" ^^P'^y ''« «"d 
my meek insT^ t"^'',r'"^'" ''''° "^^" «'»d« 
them all onlyCsWuj'^^^^^ Of 

tried to make m? fe"e"l "'^^ ^°""« "«•" "»-" 
•whileheiiioredl h l"'' '""ff^'fi""". For 
last that I ^.TcinT n ^ '* "T'^ '° '"''^' «" at 
upon in airas'sIirwaTheC f --"- 

One mgfat .fter the show he offered me , cigar 



62 



Thieves' Wit 



at the stage door, and we walked down the street 
smoking and chatting until our ways parted. He 
was not on during the second act, and after my brief 
scene I got in the habit of stopping a while in his 
room before I went up to change. He had good 
sense. It was worth while talking to him. We be- 
came very friendly. He was only a year or two 
younger than I, but to me he seemed like a mere 
kid. 

One night in the middle of our talk he said: 
"You're not like an actor. You're human." 

"Don't you like actors?" I asked curiously. 

"It's a rotten business for men," he said bitterly. 
"It unsexes them. But here I am I What am I to 
do about it?" 

I learned as I knew him better that the popular 
young actor, notwithstanding the adulation of 
women— or perhaps because of it, led an exemplary 
life. The dazzling palaces of the Great White Way 
knew him not. It was his custom to go home after 
the show, have a bite to eat in solitude, and read 
until he turned in. 

One night he invited me to accompany him home. 
He had a modest flat in the Gramercy Square neigh- 
bourhood with an adoring old woman to look after 
him. The cheerful fire, the shaded lamp, the capa- 
dous easy chair, gave me a new conception of bache- 
lor comfort. Books were a feature of the place. 

"Pretty snug, eh?" he skid, following my admiring 
eyes. 

"Well, you're not like an actor either," said I. 



Thieves' Wit 



63 



He laughed. "After the theatre this is like 
Heaven I" 

"Why don't you chuck it?" I asked. "You're 
young." 

He shrugged. "Who wants to give an actor a 
regular job?" 

We had scrambled eggs and sausages. I stayed 
for a couple of hours talking about the abstract ques- 
tions that young men loved to discuss. When I left 
he was as much of an enigma to me as when I ar- 
rived. He was willing to talk about anything under 
the sun— except himself. Without appearing to, he 
foiled all my attempts to draw him out. 

Hard upon this growing friendship it was a shock 
to learn from Sadie as a resuult of her work during 
the days, that it was Roland Quarles who had de- 
posited forty thousand dollars in his bank. 

"Impossible!" I said in my first surprise. 

"I got it direct from the bank," she said. "It was 
the Second National. He deposited forty thousand 
m cash on April Sixth." 

My heart sunk. 

"But that doesn't prove that he stole the pearls," 

fellow "' ^^^ *''"*** ""^ "'''"^ ^" *^^ ''°""« 
"I hope not," I said gloomily. "Btit if it wasn't 

he then our promising clue is no good." 

"Maybe he won it on the Stock Exchange." 

"That doesn't explain the cash. No broker pays 
mcash." '^ ' 

"Well I can think of ten good reasons why he 



64 Thieves' Wit 

couldn't have done it," Sadie taid obstinately. She 
had too warm a heart, perhaps, to make an ideal 
investigator. 

That night Roland asked me home to supper 
again. This was about a week after the first occa- 
sion. The old woman had gone to bed and he 
cooked creamed oysters in a chafing-dish, while 
I looked at the paper. 

"Wouldn't it be nice to have white hands waiting 
at home to do that for you?" I suggested teasing^y. 

"Never for me I" he said with a bitter smile. 

"Why not?" 

"What I can have I don't want. What I want I 
can never have." 

"You never can tell," I said encouragingly. I was 
thinking what a superb couple the handsome young 
pair made on the stage. It seemed low to cross- 
examine him while he was preparing to feed me, but 
there was no help for it. 

"The market is off again," I said carelessly. 
"Chance for somebody to make money." 

"How can you make money when the market is 
going down," he said innocently. 

If the innocence was assumed it was mighty well 
done. However, I told myself his business was 
acting. 

"By selling short," I said. 

"I never understood that operation." 

I explained it. 

"Too complicated for me," he said. "I con- 
sider the whole business immoral." 



Thieves' Wit 



6S 



JcZllt ""i!^"^'''i*° 'f 'J^ of solid, permanent 
invejment.. He immediately looked interested. 

ter." hVA*;!? *°Q "" '"""hing «bout such mat- 
ters, he said. "Suppose a man had a little money 
to mvest, what would you advise ?" ^ 

Your savings?" I asked with a smile. 

Lord I I couldn't save anything. No, I have 
a friend who has a few thousand su^jIus." 

this straw. Maybe a friend had entrusted him with 
money to invest. Hardly likely though. Td ! 11 
more unlikely that it would be handed ovir in cash 

2;;:d"" ""^ «°°' '•'^"' -^^ ^» -"i'^ct "t 
.aid rhi:x;::;f "^ "'°" ^^'-^ "«*- "^ 

^J^ shall soon be out of it now. one way or the 

'•What do you mean?" I asked. 
I mean to leave the stage at the close of this en 
gagement or before." *"" 

"What are you going to do?" 

I couldn't get anything else out of him. It was all 
mysterious enough. He sounded utterly rTcUe" 
when you got below the surface, but »omehow"fwa 
not the recklessness of a crook. 

Worse was to follow. 

First, however, I must put down how the .{h.o 
t. on stood with Milbourne,Lcausc ?shaJ„ot rt™ 



66 



Thieves' Wit 



to him for some time. Kenton Milboume I I have 
to tmUe eveiy time I write it, the fancy appellation 
wa.,o unsuitable to the tallow^heeL.Vtchct" 

.tun^h"''^°'""■V^• '•''••^ved Milboume had 
«oen t^e pearl,, and I worked hard to justify my 

allinit t"''"^ """« •"' ''' '^y -^-^ ^- 

Every night he talked me to a standstill. He 

seemed to be a man totaUy devoid of individuality. 

that dullness .. the favourite and most effective dis- 
gu.se of a sharper. His talk was a little too dull to 
be natural, and 6nce in a while I received an im- 
pression that he was anything but dull 

One night I said to him as Roland had said to 
me. You don't seem like an actor. How did you 
get mto this business ?" ' 

"Drifted into it." he said. "Always knew I could 
act. but was too busy with other things. I had an 
attack of typhoid in Sydney four years ago which 
Srl7 '"'?• '^''" ' ^" Ratting better a 
play, just to help me pass the time. I made a won- 
derfulh.tm.t They wouldn't let me .top. Sbce 
then I ^e never been idle. I haven't any conceit 
80 they offer me the horrible parts " ' 

"Sydney?" I said. 

U Jk7l '"""^ i" Australia. I came to America 

last FaU because there was a wider field for my art " 

I put this down in my mind as a lie. I do not 

know Australia but I suppose they have their own 



Thieves' Wit 



67 



New yS' °' •""="• •"«' *^» ™»« t«i*«d good 
r . H" apparent .lupidin, .dll m„T'5 „, 

.oi^"p^"£r;r£A'«r;?," 

bourne out of my mind *°" ^''- 

*e«ve bu.™„ CcZ S **' Jw*;:' Z 



68 



Thieves' Wit 



moment What with her thirty dollan a week from 
the theatre and her additional salary at operative 
(which Miu Hamerton insiited on her taking) 
Sadie wai in affluent circumitances, and for the firat 
time in her life she was able to dress as a pretty 
girl ought. With her Spring hat and suit, her dainty 
gloves and boots, all from the best shops, she was 
a» smart a little lady as you'd find from one end of 
the Avenue to the other. 

"You look sweet enough to eat!" I said, grinning 
at her like a Cheshire cat. 

"Cut it out I" she said with her high and mighty 
air. "It's business hours. I'm operative S F " 
"What's that for, swell figure?" 
''Wait till after the whistle blows." 
"After hours you're Miss Covington the actress, 
and I'm not allowed to know you." 
"Well, there's Sunday." 
"But this is only Tuesday." 
"I've got to respect my boss, haven't I?" 
"What if I kissed you anyhow?" 
"I'd box your ears!" she said quick as lightning. 
And she would. I sighed, and came back to 
earth. It was not that I was afraid of the box on 
the ears, but she was right, and I knew it. As soon 
as I started that line of talk I resigned my proper 
place as the boss of the establishment. 
"What's new?" I asked. 

"I found out something interesting to^ay," she 
said. "Miss Hamerton's in love with Roland 
Quarles." 



Thieves* Wit 



69 



"I gueiied that long .go," I „ld dmly. 

5.d.e was much taken aback. EvidenUy the had 

I left It for you to find out for yourielf." 
♦h. ^''' "''^'f j^'i'ved he had anything to do with 
the robbery. . Sadie .aid with a touch of defiancl 
ning?" " '^ ^" •''" *° digressed in the begin- 

looZi^'i*''"'^ ''" •omething that would have 
dlv .; 'IT 1° " '"'"•'" "''J Sadie .com. 

..nM u ""n ""'' '^^ ''"^"'^ *•« t" t«ll you." 
.K K 'J' *c" ^°"'" ' "'''«'^' » "«'" ''"ffed at the 

Sf of " ?"'"u"" «'"'"« «^"P^^ •" »he confi! 
aence of my client than I. 

J^Ye. to-day. She didn't tell me about her feel- 

^wu """■ ^ ^""'^ *''" P«rt." 
What IS this mysterious thing?" 

tnJ?''^ ?^V°''' "" *^""" »'"" »•>« ««w the cryp- 
togram she know, there couldn't be anything i„ it " 
, This was getting denser instead of more dear. 

JJ^iTltsked'"' ''' ^'^^°«"'" '''' ""^ 

Roland Quar es because he has no idea of leaving 
the company." ««vu^ 

strangely loving women reason. Aloud I said: 
Now for the thmg that a mere man would have 
considered evidence." 



70 



Thieves' Wit 



•aid Sadie. "It 



"Don't try to be •«rc««ic," 
doem't Mit you." 

..Zt^r'ety"'^""* *" '•"• '^^ '•o" "-?" I 
♦». ?L"" » " '■" " "^ '"'* ''ent on: "It „em. 
on about the pearli." 

.„ Jflf- ^t'** " '"'" ''"""" »« thought he knew 
.on,eth.ng about jewel., .„d ,he .ay. he .carcely 

and .he finaUy bet him a box of cigar. .gain,t a box 

wore the genuine pearl.. That i. how .he came to 
wear them the night they were .tolen." 

■'The devill" I exclaimed. 

"But he has never .poken about it .ince. She 
beheve. that he ha. forgotten all about the St." 

thil m«nt "" ""' ^°'"' *^^ '•°°'" """''"'"8 -hat 
k„7? ""*)** !°°^ ^^ that," .aid Sadie. "We 
StTfJth^?"'"" Wouldn't he have paid hi. 

bellJve."""* '°'" ^ '"'^ ^ **^'* """^ ^hat to 

fo^rt^omlnr'" """"'' "'' '"'"^' "-«-"* 

"What*, that?" 

"He-, in love with her. He', making love to her 
now. He couldn't do that if he had robbed her." 



Thieves' Wit 



•nxiou. to ruin the ^unTi»V^°^* ' "" "« 
muniction taken L CnLnV^".' ^'^'^'' ""■ 
and that my.tel„. «,h T V^ ^^^^^'^^^m 
look like pr/tty .tr^Vetlet:" iT^^*^'""*"^- *° 

beginning, .nd „ hVwet !V "T *""•= « t^" 
till he caSe off ' °"'' '''' "''''^ ">« to wait 

to d::fa:?Kr "^f r "t '°^ ^ '>-<' 

graceful, and with that burden on' h*" 1""^'°""'' '» 
variably kind to me I ?1 i^ " *"' '"■"»'• *° «- 
thcle... I told mysdf Lit '*! " r"^!*- Never- 

todi^overtheTl^lJ-ctl';:^^ 

wind had bC^f ,„1?°ll"'''« "•!•!. " if the 
"arch. There wa,«n"r r, " "P"^' thorough 
table a. yet un^ed'^ N i"""' °" *"■' ^^'"4- 
Nothing in' the 3™we« of K'"^- ""T""' ^"* 
wa. no trunk in The rooI'"'^rT""«- ^'>»« 

pocket. s^4^^:?£:^z:f:^ 



72 



Thieves' Wit 



"dimity" note-paper without an envelope. Opening 
it I beheld a communication in cryptogram exactly 
like the other. 

I could hear the voices on the stage. Roland was 
about to come off. I hastily returned all the papers 
to his pocket as I had found them, — except the 
cryptogram. That I put in my own pocket. 

When he came in we picked up our conversation 
where we had dropped it. 

As soon as I got home I made haste to translate 
my find. I had saved the numerical key I used 
before. I instantly found that it fitted this com- 
munication also. This is what I got : 

"I. has known of her loss for a couple of weeks. 
She has fjut two detectives in the company. Faxon 
and the girl Covington. I have this straight Watch 
yourself. f " 

So this is why Quarles cultivated my f riend^ip I 
I thought, feeling all the bitterness of finding myself 
betrayed. I could no longer doubt my evidence. 
My friendly feelings, for the young fellow were 
curdled. 



8 

T WOKE up next morning with a leaden wciirht 
1 on my breast. I had no zest in the day^kh 

What I had earned. I put off the evil moment as 

nTt;; T' '• • """""« '""^ '"°™'"8 Sad^Jame 

II i • ^"* ''^ °^<^'" t° Newark on a wild 

noi'''\?°l."Pf'*'"« ^'^» Hamerton that after- 

soZh- •'"" ^ "'"''^ ''^ "P ""-d said that I h'd 
somethmg important to report She «,M k 

She had never looked lovelier H.r 

. bo..r of Spring ao.e,., .„d "he "".7^,1" 

™" o7o fh "" '""". "'""^ ""■»"» *-^e 

::*f;'te!;rhetf..!Ltr^^^^^^^^ 

I told her bunglingly enough, God knows of thr 
second cryptogram and where I had 7o°nd it I 
crushed her like a Hower trodden underfoot ' 

73 



74 



Thieves' Wit 



Presently, however, she began to fight. "The 
first thing the thief would do when he found him- 
self under surveillance," she faltered, "would be to 
try to divert your attention to some one else." 

"He would hardly choose one ordinarily so far 
above suspicion as fhe leading man," I said reluc- 
tantly. 

"He may have known, since he knows so much, 
that you were already suspicious of Ro — of the 
other." She could not get his name out. 

I felt like the criminal myself, trying to convince 
her against her heart. "Taken by itself the letter 
would not be conclusive, but with the other 
things " 

"What other things?" 

"Well, his provoking you by a bet to wear the 
genuine pearls." 

"There's nothing in that," she said quickly. "If 
he had had an ulterior motive he would have spoken 
of the bet since. He w^uld have lost it, wouldn't he, 
to keep us from suspecting?" 

I conceded the reasonableness of this— taken by 
itself. "But his bank account?" 

"Bank account?" she repeated, startled. We had 
not told her of this. 

"On April sixth Mr. Quarles deposited forty 
thousand dollars in cash in the Second National 
Bank." 

All the light went out of her face. "Oh I Are you 
sure?" she gasped. 



Thieves' Wit 75 

"I have seen the entry in his passbook. I verified 
It at the banlc" 

Her heart still fought for him. "But my neck- 
lace was worth only twenty-five thousand. And a 
thief would never be able to realise the fuU value of 
It. 

I shrugged. Naturally I did not care to add to 
her unhappmess by telling her that the pearls were 
worth half a million. She thought from my shrug 
that I meant to convey that if her lover had been 
guilty of one theft why not others? 

It crushed her anew. She had no more fight left 
in her. She sank back dead white and bereft of 

™w!.°"" .".w"'* """'"8 *'•'"'" **>«= whispered. 
What shall I say to him? What shaU I say?" 
Don't see him," I cried. 
"I must. I promised." 

I sat there, I don't know for how long, staring at 
the carpet like a clown. 

The telephone rang and we both jumped as at a 
pistol shot, 

I offered to answer it, but she waved me back. 
She went to the instrument falteringly— but I was 
surprised at the steadiness of her voice. "What it 
it?" she asked. 

"Let him come up," she said firmly. By her 
stricken white face I knew who it was. 

I jumped up in a kind of panic. "I will have 
myself carried up to the roof garden so I won't meet 
hun," I said. 

"No please ;' she murmured. "I want you here." 



7^ Thieves' Wit 

"But he mutt not meet me 1" I cried. 
"Wait in the next room." Her voice broke pite- 
ously. "Oh, I must have some one here— some one 
I can trust 1" 

What was I to do? I obeyed very unwillingly 
As soon as he entered I found that the transom over 
the door was open, and I could hear everything that 
passed between them. Of all the difficult things 
that have been forced on me in the way of business, 
that half hour's eavesdropping was as bad as any. 

He must have been highly wrought up because he 
apparently never noticed her state. His very first 
speech was tragically unfortunate. He spoke in a 
harsh strained voice as if the painful thing he had 
kept hidden so long was breaking out in spite of him. 
"Irma, how soon can you replace me in the cast?" 
"Eh?" she murmured. I could imagine the pain- 
ful start she suppressed. 

''I want to get out. I can't stand it any longer." 
"But why?" she whispered. 
''I hate acting I It is not a man's work." 
"Have you just discovered it?" she asked with a 
little note of scorn very painful to hear. 

"No," he said gloomily, "I've always known. If 
I had been left to myself I never would have acted. 
But I came of a family of actors. I was brought 
up to it. I kept on because it was all I knew. It is 
only since I have acted with you that it has become 
more than I can bear." 

"Why, with me?" she whispered. 



Thieves' Wit 77 

voZ"""" ^ '"'' ^°"'" ^^ "•'^ '" » ''"'h. abrupt 

catl^fn Irltr' "" "° "°" **•"" » P»'"^"' 
foor'l h°" ""dn't tell mc I'm a presumptuous 

™?7 tI • ?^ °^ "y presumption yet. I love 
ITL u ""' '"?'''-''«««^« of love that I have lo 
go through every night with you drives me madl I 
love you 1 I am ashamed to make my livinTb' ex 
hibitmg a pretence of love I" ' 

JJu .''" J""" ''•""^'■'» profession and your 
mother's," she murmured. ^ 

"Ti^77"' '^- ■■"' *'^'"8'" ''^ "id gloomily 
iI?7k "^ ' ^"""'"^ *^''"- They loved their w^rk' 
I hark back to an earlier strain, I guess. I harno 

t?„'> ^r r '° """^^ " -"«•» -^il»- I hate tj; 

his^^rSke^^V"'' T^'^' '° ''"'• ''"°*''»r '»«" b^c 
leaned 1' it' ,^ T"' '° *^^ °P'=" -'"'low and 
S. 1^ • •^"'^ forgotten Roland's supposed 

L'b' 'f.' "'A' •""■ ""•" '- w "» B^ 

H. ,„ ,dll pleading ,i,h fc,-, ,,,,„ ,^ ^.^ ^^.^^ 



78 Thieves' Wit 

"A month ago I would just have left without saying 
anything to you. I don't even know that I am fit 
for anything else but acting. I could not ask you 
to give it up without having something else to offer 
you. I suffer so to see you on the stage. To see 
your name, your person, your doings all public 
property drives me wild I I cannot stand seeing you 
show your lovely self to the applause of those vulgar 
fools 1" 

"You are mad I" she whispered. 

"I know— but I have had a stroke of luck 1" 

"Luck?" 

"I have comc^ into some money. Oh, nothing 
much, but enough to give me a start in some new 
country — if you could come with me I Oh, I am a 
fool to think it. But I had to tell you I loved you. 
You would be quite justified in laughing, and show- 
ing me the door. But I love you I It seemed 
cowardly to go away without telling you." 

"You are askmg me to give up my profession?" 
she murmured unsteadily. 

"I ask nothing. I expect nothing. But if you 
could — 1 You'd have to pve it up. It would kill 
me otherwise. I could stand better having none of 
you than half." He laughed harshly. "Am I not 
ridiculous? Tell me to go." 

"I am not so enamoured of make-believe either," 
she murmured. 

She was weakening I I trembled for her. This 
wretched business had to be cleared up before they 
could hope for any happiness. 



Thieves' Wi* 79 

He cned her name over and over brokenly. "Mv 

tZi^uJ.^'" '^"' » » chance-lTever ex^ 

foriii^^^elt."'^'^'"^"^""'^---"- 

I went to the window-sill again and leaned out. 

trlw- ?v "'^^ ^'"^" »'»'' «"»« in- She was 
tremblmg and breathing fast. 

"He has gone," she said. 

tt^fjl''? *"" '""'' '"*° *''' °"»" "o'n- She noticed 
stilt;. *"" "" °P^"- "^°" heard?" sSeTaid 

wameTto'"' "''^ ""~™f°rtably. "More than I 

"I don't care," she said. 

"Have you promised to marry him?" I asked 
lafkldtftim^^'- •'^'^-P-^d nothing. 

"Good I" I said involuntarily. 

She looked at me startled. "You heard I" .f,- 
^d^defiantly. "Were they the wordsT/aUy 

said'Jrompily'"''" ''"'"''"^ "'""' ''"'"- -^«." ^ 
th,!!!" '"""i"* «"^it«de lighted up her face. "Oh 

•Wh-" '^^ r^- ^^' ^"^ ^^nr near tears 
Anythmg else would be unbelievable I" 

Nol Nol" she cried with surprising energy 



8o 



Thieves' Wit 



I will not carry this tragic farce any further. I 
hate the pearls now. I would not wear them if I 
did get them back. They are gone. Let them go I" 

"But Miss Hamerton " I persisted. 

"Not another word I" she cried. "My mind is 
made up 1" 

"I must speak," I said doggedly. "Because you 
as much as said you depended on getting honest ad- 
vice from me. You can't stop now. If you marry 
Mr. Quarles, the fart mat you have suspected him 
though it was only f j. a moment will haunt you all 
your life. No marriage is a bed of roses. When 
trouble does come your grim spectre will invariably 
rise and mock you. It must be definitely laid in its 
grave before you can marry the man." 

The bold style of my speech made her pause. I 
had never spoken to her in that way before. She 
eyed me frowning. 

"I hope you know it's not the job I'm after," I 
went on. "I never had work to do that I enjoyed 
less. But you put it up to me to give you honest 
advice." 

"I can't spy on the man I love," she faltered. 

"You can't marry the man you suspect," I re- 
turned. 

"I don't su^ect him." 

"The suspicious circumstances are not yet ex- 
plained." ' 

"Very wcD, then. 111 send for him to come back, 
and he will explain them." 

I had a flash of insight into the character of my 



Thieves' Wit 8i 

young friend. "No I" I cried "If he knew that 
you had ever .u.pected him. he would never for^Jve 

"Then what do you want me to do?" she cried 

hi. ^ZIZT''-''''" '°"" '° p^°^"« p'-^' «^ 

She gave in with a gesture. 

BrllT^ '^'" Hamerton I walked twice around 

lu^i ^Tr *" P"' "y »''«'8''*» in order. I 
wished to bekve in Roland's imiocence almost a 
ardendy a, she did. but I had to force myse to 
keep an open mind. A fixed idea one wa/o tl^c 
other .s fatal to any investigator. So I argued 
agamst h™ for a while to strike a balance. iTo d 
E /f'" I" ' "^^ °' ""•" ^''° ^0"ld stop at 

In tt Sr**"?* '\"™" '^' ^""-^ ''« desired 
In the bottom of my heart, like anybody else. I had 

a sneakmg admiration for the type. "*'•*"•«' 

True, I had never heard of . man robbing a 

wcmian m order to secure the means to supporfer 

St.Il. human psychology i, an amazing thing You 

SmeYlTn?' J '"T^'^ "-y"'' °*«« the othe^ 
times I had been brought face to face with the appar' 
en% .mpossible Particularly is human nature in. 
genious m justifying itself. 

I finally made up my mind to search Roland's 

marked a htt e safe there. Surely it must contain 

S. Tk "T r '^^"" ""^ ^"y °r the other 
What I hoped to find was some natural and hone, 



82 



Thieves' Wit 



explanation of the turn of money he had received. 

Around the theatre that night Roland and I were 
at friendly at uiual. The shadow was somewhat 
lifted from his dark eyes. They burned with an 
expectant fire. An extraordinary restlessness pos- 
sessed him. For all he said he hated it, that time 
anyway, he outdid himself in playing his role. As 
far as I could see, he and Irma held no communica- 
tions outside the play. ^, 

In pursuance of the plan I had made, I insisted on 
his tupping with me that nig^t. I was free to leave 
the theatre afte^ the second act, so I went on ahead 
to order the supper I said. He was to meet me at 
the Thespis club at half-past eleven. I did order the 
supper there, then hurried on to his flat, arriving 
some time before his customary hour of coming from 
the theatre. 

His old housekeeper having seen me in his com- 
pany on several occasions expressed no surprise at 
my coming. I said I would wait for him, and she 
left me to my own devices in the front room. I 
satisfied myself that she had gone to her own room 
on the other side of the kitchen, three doors away, 
then I set to work. 

I had brought a bunch of skeleton keys and a set 
of miniature housebreaking tools. I didn't require 
them, for I found that the little safe had one of the 
earliest and simplest forms of a lock. Part of my 
apprenticeship had been spent in learning how to 
open such locks merely by listening to the fall of the 
tumblers as one turned the knob. All that was re- 



Thieves' Wit 



83 



quired was patience. It wa» a little after ten. Sup- 
posing that Roland waited for me at the Thespis 
club only half an hour, I had two hours in which to 
work. It was painfully exciting. I had my first 
glimpse of the point of view of a housebreaker. 

The safe door swung open at last. I looked in- 
side with a beating heart. It contained but little; 
a diary, which I left for the moment; a wallet con- 
taining a sum of money, a bundle of papers en- 
closed by an elastic band. I went over the papers 
hastily; they consisted of insurance policies, the- 
atrical contracts and business letters of old dates 
which had nothing whatever to do with my case. 

However, there was still a little locked drawer to 
investigate. After a number of tries I fixed a key 
that would open it. The first thing I saw was a 
number of pieces of men's jewelry that Roland 
doubtless used for stage properties. The second 
thing I saw was a beautiful little antique box made 
of some sweet-smelling wood which contained several 
notes in Irma's handwriting and some withered 
flowers. The third and last thing was a seal leather 
case such as jewellers display. Upon pressing the 
spring the cover flew back and I saw lying on a bed 
of white velvet a string of wonderful dusky pearls. 

For many moments I gazed at them in stupid 
astonishment. God knows what I expected to find. 
Certainly not that. What did it mean ? It looked 
just the same as the string Miss Hamerton had 
showed me. I counted them. There were sixty- 
seven pearls. Was it another of Roberts' replicas? 



maoawt mmuition tmt omit 

(ANSI and ISO TiSI CHART No. 2) 



1.0 £i2fi 

^^S lit tSm 



u 



1.1 



1^ 

120 
1.8 



iii^i^ 



A 



i ^^PPUEDJVMGE Inc 



1653 Cost Main StrMt 

Roch«t«f. Nm York U60fl ifiA 

(716) 482 - 0300 - Phorw 

(716) 288 - 5989 - F<»i 



84 



Thieves' Wit 



Perhaps Roland had bought it and stowed it away 
for sentimental reasons. That seemed pretty far- 
fetched. 

I carried it to the electric light. There I could 
see the blue cast like the last gleam of light in the 
twilight sky. The bits of stone had a wonderful 
fire, life. An instinct told me they were genuine 
pearls. But if they were it must be the string, for 
Mount had said there were no others. I remem- 
bered that Miss Hamerton had told me she had 
made a little scratch on the clasp and I eagerly 
looked for it. There was a kind of mark there. 
At this point I shook my head and gave up speculat- 
ing. 

I slipped the case in my pocket, locked the drawer 
and locked the safe again. I switched off the lights 
and let myself quietly out of the flat. 

I decided to go to the Thespis club as if nothing 
had happened. I was not at all anxious to meet 
Roland until I knew where I stood, but I reflected 
that if I failed him it might rouse his suspicions and 
precipitate a catastrophe before I was ready for it. 
There was not much danger that he would look in 
his safe that night if I kept him late. His house- 
keeper would tell him I had been there, but I could 
explain that. In the morning I would have him 
watched. 

Roland was at the club when I arrived. "I've 
been at your rooms," I said instantly. "I had an 
idea I was to wait for you there. But I got think- 
ing it over and decided I had made a mistake.' 



Thieves' Wit 



85 



"You've got a memory like a colander," he said 
good-naturedly. "Better do something about it." 

We sat down to our supper. Roland was in for 
him, extraordinary spirits. All the while we ate, 
drank and joked I was wondering in the back of my 
head what kind of a change would come over his 
grim, dark, laughing face if he knew what I had in 
my pocket. 



Fir^ '"'^ **" "y **'•' ""'^ morning. I 
called up Miss Hamerton merely saying that 
I would come to the hotel half an hour later. Sadie 
came m, but having kept from her what had already 
happened, I could not tell her this. I was not 
obliged to tell her all the developments of the case, 
of course, but she had a moral right to my confi- 
dence, and so I felt guilty and wretched every way 
Sadie I knew would be terribly cut up by the way 
thmgs were tending, and I had not the heart to face 
It, with what I had to go through later. 

Miss Hamerton received me with great bright 
eyes that looked out of her white face like stars at 

T' ..P^ '"'*''"* ^^^ ""g'lt "g'»t of my face she 
said: "You have news?" 

I nodded. 

"Good or bad?" she whispered breathlessly. 
There was no use beating around the bush. 
iJad, 1 said bluntly. 

A hand went to her breast. "Tell me— quickly " 
, I drew out the case. She gave no sign of recog- 
nising it I snapped it open. "Is this the lost neck- 
lace ? I asked. 

With a little cry, she seized upon it, examined the 

pearls, breathed upon them, looked at the clasp. 

res I Yes I she exclaimed, joy struggling in her 



86 



Thieves' Wit 



87 



"Where did yoa 



face with an underlying terror 
get it?" 

"Out of a safe in Mr. Quarles' flat." 
She looked at me stricken stupid. 
I had to repeat the words. 

pew? '""'""' '"""^'^ "°* ^""'"' ™^" '^^ ^J*'*- 
^"I wish to God it were not true!" I cried 
In his room-his room I" she muttered. Sud- 
the fl^oor " *" " '"""P^*='* ^''«« heap on 

I gathered her up in my arms and laid her on 
the sofa. I called Mrs. Bleecker. who came run- 
nmg, accompanied by Irma's maid. A senseless 
scene of confusion foUowed. The foolish women 
roused half the hotel with their outcries. I myself 
earned the beautiful, i ...imate girl into herTed- 
room. For me ,t was holy ground. It was almost 
as bare as a convent cell. It pleased me to find that 
she mstmctively rejected luxury on retiring to her 
last stronghold. I laid her on her bed-the pillow 

to the outer room to await the issue. All this time, 
I must tell you, Mrs. Bleecker was relieving S 
feeling by abusing me. From the first I had ap- 
prehended hatred in that lady. 

I waited a few minutes, feeling very unnecessary, 
and wondering if I would not do better to returnTo 
my office when Mrs. Bleecker came back, and wi h 
a very .1, grace said that Miss Hamerton wantelto 
know If It was convenient for me to wait a little 



88 



Thieves' Wit 



while until she was able to see me, and would I please 
say whatever was necessary to people who called. I 
almost wept upon receiving this message. I sent 
back word that I would stay all day if she wanted 
me. Mrs. Bleecker glared at me, almost beside 
herself with defeated curiosity. I had the necklace 
safe in my pocket and she was without a clue to what 
had happened. 

So there I was established as Miss Hamerton's 
representative. Everybody took orders from me, 
and wondered who I was. The word had spread 
like wildfire that ^he famous star had been taken 
ill, and the telephone rang continuously. I finally 
told the hotel people what to say, and ordered it 
disconnected. I had a couple of boys stationed in 
the corridor to keep people from the door. I sent 
for two doctors, not that Irma was in any need of 
medical attention, but I wished lo have the support 
of a professional bulletin. I told them what I 
thought necessary. They were discreet men. 

Miss Hamerton had no close relatives, and I 
could not see the sense of sending for any others. 
I forbade Mrs. Bieecker to telegraph them. In a 
case of this kind solitude is the best, the most merci- 
ful treatment for the sufferer. As it was I pitied 
the poor girl having to endure the officious ministra- 
tions of her inquisitive servants, but I did not feel 
justified in interfering there. 

Only two men were allowed past the guard in the 
corridor, Mr. Maurice Metz, the famous theatrical 
manager, and Mr. Alfred Mount. The former 



Thieves* Wit 



89 



stormed about the room like a wilful child. His 
pocketbook was hard hit. I was firm. He could 
not see Miss Hamerton, he must be satisfied with my 
report. Miss Hamerton had suffered a nervous 
breakdown — with that phrase we guarded her pite- 
ous secret, and it would be out of the qiiestion for 
her to act for weeks to come. It was her wish that 
the company be paid off and disbanded. 

"Who the devil are you?" he demanded. 

"I speak for Miss Hamerton," I said with a 
shrug. I remembered how humbly I had besieged 
this man's door with my play a few weeks since, and 
now I was turning him down. 

To satisfy him I had Mrs. Bleecker in. He de- 
manded of her who I was. 

"I don't know," she snapped. 

Nevertheless she had to bear me out. Miss Ham- 
erton had sent word that the company was to be 
paid off with two weeks' salary, and the amount 
charged to her. I referred Mr. Metz to the doc- 
tors. They impressed him with medical phrases he 
didn't understand. He finally departed talking to 
himself and waving his hands. 

Mr. Mount, of course, was very different. He 
came in all suave sympathy, anxious to uphold me in 
every way. I had wished to see him for a special 
purpose. I couldn't allow the possibility of a 
ghastly mistake being made. 

I produced the fateful little seal leather box, and 
snapped it open again. "Are these the lost pearls ?" 
I asked. 



90 



Thieves' Wit 



The man had wonderful lelf-control. No mus- 
cle of his face changed. Only his black eyes flamed 
up. He took the case quietly, but those eyes 
pounced on the pearls like their prey, and wolfed 
them one by one. He returned the case to me. A 
curious smile wreathed the corners of his voluptuous 
mouth. 

"Those are the pearls," he said quietly. 
"You are surer' 

"Sure?" He spread out his hands. "There are 
no other such pearls in the world." 
I returned the case to my pocket. 
"Where did you find them?" he asked. 
"At present I am not free to say how they were 
recovered," I replied. "No doubt Miss Hamerton 
will give it out later." 

"I think I understand," he said with a compas- 
sionate air. "I suppose there will be no prosecu- 
tion." 

"I do not know," I said blandly. 
"Maybe it would be better never to speak of the 
matter to her?" he said softly. 

I shrugged. I wasn't going to let him get any 
change out of me. 

"Anyhow it's a triumph for you," he said gra- 
ciously. "Allow me to congratulate you." 

Was there a faint ring of irony in his words? In 

either case I never felt less triumphant. What 

booted it to return her jewels if I hid broken her 

heart? I bowed my acknowledgment. 

As he left he said : "Come and see me sometimes, 



Thieves' Wit 



91 



though the case !s closed. You are too valuable a 
man for me to lose sight of." 

I bowed again, mutely registering a resolve to 
ask him a thumping figure if he ever did require my 
services. 

Meanwhile I had the reporters to deal with. 1 
have a strong fellow-feeling for the boys. As a 
class they are the most human lot of fellows I know. 
They do not make the rotten conditions of their 
business. But they certainly are the devil to deal 
with when they get you on the defensive. They 
seemed to spread through that hotel like quicksilver, 
bribing the bell-boys, the maids, even the waiter 
who brought up my dinner. If we had not been on 
the eleventh story I should have expected to find 
them peeping in the windows. 

I did not dare see them myself. In my anoma- 
lous position they would have made a monkey of 
me. In my mind's eye I could see the story of the 
mysterious stranger who claimed to represent Miss 
Hamerton, etc., etc. I had to take every precau- 
tion, too, to keep them from that fool of a Mrs. 
Bleecker. I carefully drilled the doctors in what 
they should say, and then sent them down to their 
fate. They came off better than I expected. Of 
course the lurid tales did appear next day, but they 
were away beside the mark. Nothing approaching 
the truth was ever published. 

A little before five everybody had gone, and I was 
alone in the sitting-room gazing out of the window 
and indulging in gloomy enough thoughts, when I 



9a 



Thieves' Wit 



heard the door behind me open. I turned with a 
ligh, expecting fresh complainti and demands from 
the old harridan. But there was Irma trying to 
smile at me. She was wearing a white negligee af- 
fair that made her look like a fragile lily. She 
walked with a firm step, but her face shocked me. 
It looked dead. The eyes open, were infinitely 
more ghastly than when I had laid her down with 
them closed. Mrs. Bleecker and the maid followed, 
buzzing around her. She seemed to have reached 
the limits of her patience with them. 

"Let me be I" she said as sharply as I ever heard 
her speak. "I am perfectly well able to walk and 
to speak. Please go back to the bedroom. I have 
business to discuss with Mr. Enderby." 

They retired, bearing me no love in their hearts. 
"I must go away, quite by myself," she said, speak- 
ing at random. "Can you help me find a place, 
some place where nobody knows me? If I do not 
get away from these people they will drive me mad I" 
"I will find you a place," I said. 
"Perhaps I'd better not go alone," she said. "If 
I could only find the right kind of person. I'm so 
terribly alone. That nice girl you brought into the 
company. Miss Farrell, do you think she would go 
with me?" 

There was something in this more painful than I 
can convey. "She'd jump at the chance," I said 
brusquely. 
"You have been so good to me," she said. 



Thieves' Wit 93 

'•You can lay that I" I laid, astonished. 
"Oh, I've not quite taken leave of my senses," she 
said bitterly. "If I had not known the truth, it 
would have been much worse." 

This struck me as extraordinary generosity in a 
woman who loved. 

"I— I have something else to ask of you," she said 
in the piteous beseeching way that made me want to 
cast myself at her feet. 
"Anything;," I murmured. 
"Mr. Quarles is coming here at five. Please see 
him and tell him— Oh I tell him anything you like, 
anything that will keep him from ever trying to see 
me again." 

I nodded. "You had ter lose no time in get- 
ting out of this," I suggested. "Can you be ready 
by to-morrow morning?" 

"I will start packing now," she said. "It will 
give me something to do." 

How well I una-rstood the hic'eous blankness that 
faced her. 

"Don't let those women bother you," I said. 
"Refer them to me." 

"They mean well," she said. 

"I will £ swer for Miss Farrell," I said. "She'll 
be here at nine to-morrow." 

She started to thank me again, but I would not 
let her go on. J really could not stand it. 

"Very well, you will see," she said with a smile, 
and left me. 



94 



Thieves' Wit 



Shortly afterwards Roland Quarlet came strid- 
ing down the hall. I opened the door to him. He 
wai a*toniihed to find a strange man in the room. 
He did not recognise me without my Faxon makeup. 

"Enderby," I said in response to his enquiring 
glance. "You met me here once before." 

"What's this I hear downstairs about Miss Ham- 
erton being sick?" he demanded anxiously. 

"She has had a nervous breakdown," I said. 

He was not deceived. "What does that mean ?" 
he demanded. "She was quite well yesterday." 

I shrugged. 

"Can I see her^" 

I shook m> head. 

"I will speak to Mrs. Bleecker, then." 

"You can't see her, either." 

"Who are you ?" he demanded, as so many others 
had done. 

I gave him my card, hoping that he would take 
the hint, and save me further explanations. 

Not a bit of it. "Investigator? What does that 
mean? Detective?" 

"Precisely." 

"What's it all about?" he cried irritaMy. "Why 
are you looking at me like a policeman?" 

"Look at me close," I said. 

He stared at me angry and puzzled. "I have seen 

you before — more than once " Then his face 

changed. "Faxon I" he cried. "Is it Faxon?" 

"The same," I said. 

"What are you doing here ?" he demanded. 



Thieves* Wit 



95 



Thii parade of innocence began to cxatperate 
me. "Do you need to ailc?" I said. 

"Oh, for Heaven's take don't play with wordi," 
he burst out. "Tell me what's the matter and be 
done with it." 

"Miss Hamerton's pearl necklace was stolen from 
the theatre two months ago. She engaged me to 
recover it." 

"Her peak's I Stolen I" he ejaculated, amazed. 
I could not l-ave asked to see it better done. 
"Do you still want me to go on?" I asked. 
"Oh, drop the mystery 1" he cried. "You fellows 
fatten on mystery I" 

"As Faxon in the th tre I was perfectly sincere 
in my friendship for you," I went on. "I liked you. 
But little by little against my will I was forced to 
believe that you were the thief." 

This touched bim, but not quite 1: the way I ex- 
pected. "Me? The thief f he gasped— and sud- 
denly burst into harsh laughter. "How did you 
arrive at that?" 

I was no longer inclined to spare him. "In the 
first place you provoked a bet with Miss Hamerton 
which induced her to wear the real pearls on the 
night they were stolen." 

His face turned grave. "True," he said. "I for- 
got that. What else?" 

"On April sixth you deposited forty thousand dol- 
lars in cash in the Second National Bank." 
He paled. "Anything more?" 



96 



Thieves' Wit 



"Do you care to explain where you got it?" I 
asked. 

"Not to you," he said proudly. "Go on with your ' 
story." ' 

"My first due was in the cryptic letter found on 
the stage." 

"I remember. You couldn't translate it." 

"But I did." 

"What's it got to do with me?" 

"Nothing. But I found a second letter written in 
the same cryptogram and about the same matters in 
your pocket." 

"That's a lie!*' he said. 

"If you want to see it it's at my office." 

"If you did find such a paper in my pocket it was 
planted there." 

"I should be glad to believe you were not the 
man," I said mildly. 

"Spare me your assurances," he said scornfully. 
He was silent for a while, thinking over what I 
had told him. Slowly horror grew in his face. "But 
— ^but this is only a devilish combination of circum- 
stances," he stammered. "You haven't proved any- 
thing." ' 

"The pearls have been recovered," I said. 

"Where?" he shot at me. 

"In your safe." 

His legs failed him suddenly. He half fell in a 
chair, staring at me witlessly. "Oh, my Godl" he 
muttered huskily. "Those, hersl" 

I believe I smiled 



Thieves' Wit 97 

"And you— you have told her this story?" he fal- 
tered. 

"That's what I was engaged for." 

u'i?T\'".^.*^°*^'" *"= "iterated blankly. "What 
snail I do" 

His agony was genuine enough. In spite of my- 
self I was moved by it. "Better go," I said. "The 
matter will be hushed up, of course." 

"Hushed up I" he cried. "Never I" 

This theatrical pretence of innocence provoked 
me afresh. "Oh, get out I" I said. "And be thank- 
ful you re getting off so easily!" 

He paid no attention to me. "I must see her " 
he muttered. 

"What do you expect to gain by bluffing now?" I 
said impatiently. "You must see that the game is 
up. 

"I wiU not leave here without seeing her." he 
said with a kind of dull obstinacy. 

"You have me at a disadvantage," I said bitterly. 
You know I can't have you thrown out without 
causing a scandal." 

He scarcely seemed to hear me. "I wiU go when 
she sends me," he muttered. 

"AH right, my patience is equal to yours," I said 

bo there we sat, he with his ghastly white face 

turned towards the door into the inner rooms, mois- 

tcnmg his lips from time to time, I looking out of 

the window. 

To make matters worse, Mrs. Blcecker came 
Clucking m. She, Knowing nothing, fell on Quaries' 



98 



Thieves' Wit 



neck, so to speak, and told him all her troubles with 
sidelong shots at me. 

He paid little attention to her vapouring, only re- 
peating in his ghastly, blank way: "I must see 
Irma." 

"Of course!" said Mrs. Bleecker. "I'll tell her 
you're here." 

"Mrs. Bleecker, as a friend, I advise you not to 
interfere," I said sternly. 

She went out, flouncing her skirts at me. 

To my surprise, Miss Hamerton presently came 
in. I cannot say yrhat led her to do it, perhaps she 
was hoping against hope that he could defend him- 
self. There was no sign of weakness in her now. 
Her face was as composed as marble. Mrs. Bleecker 
did not return. 

"Irma," he cried, "send this fellow away." 

I made haste to go, but she kept me. "Mr. En- 
derby must stay," she said. "He is your friend," 
she added. 

He made a gesture of despair. A hideous silence 
descended on the three of us. 

"You asked to see me," she said at last. 

"Irma, do you believe this of me?" he cried like 
a soul out of Hell. 

"I am willing to hear anything you have to say," 
she murmured. 

"What does evidence matter?" he cried. "Do 
you believe me capable of such a thing?" 

"Am I not forced to?" she said very low. 

His head dropped. I never saw such hopeless 



Thieves' Wit 



99 



I feh like an exe- 



wretchedness in a man's face, 
cutioner. 

"Speak up !" I said sharply. "We are anxious to 
believe in you." 

He shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he said 
m a stifled voice. "I doubt if I could dear myself. 
Anyway I shan't try. It— it is killed I" 

He bent a look of fathomless reproach on her. 
"Good-bye, Irma," he said quietly. "I'm glad I was 
the means of your getting your jewels back. I 
never knew they had been stolen." 

This to me was the purest exhibition of cheek I 
had ever met with. I was hard put to it to keep my 
hands off the man. If she had not been there I He 
went. And when I turned around Irma had gone 
back mto the next room. I was angry through and 

through, and yet— and yet 1 A nagging little 

doubt teased me. 

So ended, as I thought, the case of the blue pearls. 
Little did I suspect what was on the way. 



10 

'T\IE foUowing day was a blue one for me. De- 
X pnved of all the exciting activities of the past 
few weeks I was at a loss what to do with myself. 
Moreover, I was dissatisfied with the result of those 
activities I had won out, so to speak, but my 
client nad not For her only tragic unhappiiiess had 
come of It. Meanwhile that little inner voice con- 
tinued to whisper that I had not got to the bottom 
ot the case. I could not put that young fellow's 
amazed and despairing face out of my mind. It 
? .WL .'".*° ^^ *'"=°'T' °f •>» K"!lt- On top of 
fore "^ *'"""' "'^ ^'*^'* *'•' "'«••* ''*• 

About noon my uncomfortable thoughts were 
broken mto by ths entrance of Sadie herself with 
storm signals flying, to n-it: a pair of flashing blue 
eyes and a red flag hoisted in either cheek. I had 
supposed that she was already on the way to Amit - 
viUe with Miss Hamerton, where they were to stay 
at a sanatorium conducted by a doctor friend of 
mine. 

Before I could speak she exploded like a bomb in 

"Eh?" I said, blinking and looking precious like 
one, I expect. 
She repeated it with amplifications. 

100 



Thieves' Wit 



lOI 



"So you said last night," I remarked. 
But I hadn't seen her then." 
"Aren't you going to the country?" I asked, hop- 
ing to create a diversion. 

''Yes, at two o'clock. But I had to see you first." 
lo tell me what you thought of me?" 
To beg you to do something." 
"What is there to do?" 

*i. -^r" ^Z^ ""^"^^ * ''''^""'' "•"*"''«= ' Ruined both 
tneir lives I 

I may have had my own doubts, but it wouldn't 
nave been human to confess them in the face of an 
attack like this. "Easy, there!" I said sulkily 
Have yon discovered any new evidence?" 

"Oh, evidence!" she cried scornfully. "I know 
he couldn't have stolen her pearls, and in your heart 
you know it, too." 

"Sorry," I said sarcastically, "but in conducting 

hlart""""* *° *'°'""'* ""^ '^"'^ ''^^°" ""y 

"I know it!" she said bitterly. "That's why 
you've been a fool!" ' 

''Well, next time I'll consult a clairvoyant." 
Oh, don't try to be clever! It's too dreadful! 
If you had seen her I She will never act again. And 

donT ""^ ''™"*^' '^ ^^ ''" "°* "''"'^y 

This struck a chiU to my breast. Sadie had an 
intuitive sense that I could not afford to despise 
At the same time having been called a fool, I couldn't 
back down. 



102 



Thieves' Wit 



'I don't see what better he can do," I said hardily. 

"You can say that I" she said aghast. "You don't 
mean it I" 

A very real jealousy made me hot. That hand- 
some young blackguard had all the women with him. 
"Are you in love with him, too?" I asked sarcas- 
tically. 

It was a mistake. She had me there. "You're 
doing your best to make me," she retorted. 
^^ "What are you abusing me for?" I complained. 
"I did no more than what I was engaged to do." 

"She was distracStedl" said Sadie. "She couldn't 
think for herself. She depended on you." 

"Well, I did the best I could for her," I said dog- 
gedly. "You seem to think that I enjoyed doing 
it. There is a perfect case against him." 

"There is not 1" she said quickly. "Your own evi- 
dence that you set such a store by is full of holes I" 
I invited her to point them out. 
"One of your points against him is that he lately 
came into possession of a lot of money, presumably 
the proceeds of the theft. Yet you found the peaf Is 
on him, too. One fact contradicts the other." 

"How do I know what other activities he's been 
engaged in?" 

"You do not believe that." 
"I beg your pardon," I said stiffly. "Permit me 
to know my own beliefs." 

"If it wasn't true it wouldn't anger you." 
"I am not angry." I smiled to prove it. 



Thieves' Wit 103 

"How can I talk to you if you act like such a 
child I" cried Sadie. 

*|Never mind my actions. Stick to his." 
"You know very well that he could not have car- 
ried out several successful robberies without a lot 
of experience. His whole open life gives the lie 
to that. Have we not gone into every part of it?" 
"I know I found the pearls on him," I said dog- 
gcdly. "They could not very well have been planted 
m a locked drawer in his own safe. He did not 
even claim that they were." 

She ignored this. "And that cryptogram," she 
went on, "I mean the first one. It didn't say so in 
so many words, but the inference was unmistakable 
that Miss Hamerton's pearls had been disposed of, 
and that part of the proceeds was waiting for the 
thief. How do you account for that?" 

I did not try to account for it. I pooh-poohed 
It. "He convicted himself," I insisted. "We • 
vited him, we begged him to oqplain. He cou i 
not." 

"Would not, you mean." 

"What's the difference?" 

She favoured me with an extraordinary glance of 
scorn. "And you get up to understand human na- 
turel" 

"Well, let me have your understanding of it," T 
said sarcastically. 

"He was b love with her," said Sadie. "I sup- 
pose you don't question that." 



104 



Thieves' Wit 



"No, strange as it teem*, I believe he wai in love 
with her." 

"That makes goose eggs of all your fine reason- 
ing! Reason all night and it wouldn't make sense. 
He might have stolen anybody else's pearls but 
never hers. It was she who wronged love in be- 
lieving that he could. To find out that she sus- 
pected him killed his love dead. Losing that, what 
did he care about his reputation? If he does away 
with himself it will be not because he was accused 
of a theft, but because she killed his trust in her, 
and he doesn't caije to live without it." 

I listened to all this with an affected smile of su- 
periority, but it reached me. Every word that the 
unhappy Quarles had uttered fitted in with Sadie's 
theory, 

"Suppose some one accused you of stealing Miss 
Hamerton'c purse to buy me a present," she went on, 
artfully changing her tone. "I would make a tre- 
mendous virtuous fuss, of course, but in my heart 
I couldn't love you any less, though you might not 
have the sense to know it. But if they said you had 
stolen my purse to buy me something, how I would 
laugh I It's too silly for words." 

I was rapidly weakening, but it was damnably hard 
to own up. 

"The same with this case. You think I'm in 
love with Quarles because I defend him. That's 
just like a man I The truth is, what hurts me is to 
see you deceive yourself, and then look fatuous 
about it." 



Thieves' Wit IQ5 

un^'.T'" "*"' wielding a double^dged $word. 

But if the woman who loves him was deceived, 
"""tu !*"'" '"""^ excuse," I said meekly. 

That's the weaknes of her character— or the pen- 
alty of her position, whichever you like. She is so 
lurrounded by flattery and meanness, it has taught 
her to suspect even her lover." 

"But how did the pearls get in his safe?" I cried, 
begging for mercy. 

"I don't know. It's a mystery. I'm only trying 

to show you that you haven't solved the mystery 

yet. One; more she changed her tone, the witch I 

1 m so keen to have you make a great success of the 

case, Ben. And to help a little." 

That completed the rout of my forces. "Sadie, 
darling, I cried. "In my heart I feel the same as 
you. I would have given in at once if you hadn't 
begun by slapping my face I" 

There was a little private interlude here. Boss 
and operative were lost sight of. 

''Now let's get to work I" I said. 

"I hope it's not too late I" she said sadly. 



II 

T HASTENED down to Quarle.' room* near 
J. Gramercy Square. I found hit old house- 
keeper in tears. My glimpse beyond her showed 
me that the place was partly dismantled. I found 
that she was halfheartedly packing. She did not 
know me without my Faxon makeup, and refused 
any mformation. I suspected that she had been for- 
bidden to speak.' However, by adroit and sympa- 
thetic questioning, and because the poor old soul was 
bursting with her troubles, it finaUy came out with 
a rush. She thought her master had lost his mind, 
he had acted so strangely, but such was her awe of 
him, she had not dared question his commands. 

AU night long he had paced his bedroom and sit- 
ting^oom, pausing only to bum papers and cher- 
ished mementos in the grate. When she had risen 
from her bed and timidily enquired if he were ill, 
he had harshly ordered her back to her room. There 
she had lain trembling until morning, grieving be- 
cause she thought she had offended him. 

He had left his breakfast untastcd. Afterwards 
he had caUed her to him, and in a voice and man- 
ner totally unlike his own, had announced that he 
was going away, and had given her instructions that 
temfied her. His furniture was to be sent to an 
auctioneer's under an assumed name, and was to be 
to6 



Thieves' Wit 



107 



put up on the firrt ule day. She was to keep what 
It brought in lieu of wages. Hit dothei were to 
be lent to the Salvation Army. Hit jewelry and 
knick-knackt the might tell or keep at the chose. 
On lecond thoughtt he had written out hit instruc 
tions in the form of a letter to hrr in case any of her 
acts should be questioned. He had then called a 
taxi from the stable he usually patronised, and had 
departed without any baggage. This last fact 
alarmed her more than all the reit. 

All thit read fatally clear. I wat careful, how- 
ever, to make light of it to the grief-ttricken old 
woman. I assumed an authority which the will- 
ingly deferred to. I ordered her to put the rooms 
m order, and not to make any other move until she 
heard from me again. She wat vastly cheered. 
What she dwelt ur. most tragically was the neces- 
sity of sending all his beautiful suits to the ragged 
crew who profited by the Salvation Army's benefac- 
tions. 

I found out from the faxi stable that Quarlet had 
been driven to the Pennsylvania ttation. I go'; hold 
of his driver, a man frequently employed bj^ him. 
He had remarked his strange appearance this mom- 
mg. On reaching the station Quarlet had asked the 
porter who opened the cab door what time the next 
train left for Baltimore. On learning that he had 
but three minutes to catch it, he had thrust a bill in 
the chauffeur's hand, and rushed away. This had 
been at ten o'clock; it was now nearly one. I had 
the same driver carry me to the station, where I 



io8 



ThiVW Wit 



telephoned Sadie, matched t bite to eat, and caught 
the next expreu South. 

It wai not the most cheerful journey I have taken. 
I had four houri to think over the tragic poiiibili. 
ties of my mistake, and it wa* tmall comfort to re- 
flect that it wai a natural mistake. Quarlei, with 
hit three houn' start had only too much time to 
put hit purpose into effect. My only hope was that 
he might instinctively be led to wait until night. 
Darkness has an invincible attraction for desperate 
souls. 

Arriving in Baltimore I had the whole wide city to 
choose from, arid not a clue. No chance of any- 
body's having marked him in ♦he crowd that left 
the train there. However, I happened to know of 
a certain select hotel invariably patronised by the 
flite of the profession, and I went there on a chance. 
The clerk I saw did not know Mr. Quarles, but upon 
my describing him he said that such a young man 
had been in the hotel during the afternoon. He was 
not registered there. He recollected him because 
he had stopped at the desk to ask an unusual ques- 
tion. Did the clerk know where there was a taxi- 
dermist in town? Together they had looked up air 
address in the business directory, and the young ...an 
had departed. He had not returned. 

I hastened to tne taxidermist's wondering greatly 
what could have been Quarles* errand in such a 
place. Casting back in my mind, I remembered 
having seen several little cases of mounted butter- 
flies among his treasures. There was something 



Thieves' Wit 109 

pathetically innocent :n the wide open trail the young 
fellow wai leaving behind him. Thit aurely wai 
no experienced criminal. 

The itore was kept by a benignant old man who 
somehow seemed to belong with the stuffed birds 
and pet dogs that lined the walls of his little place. 
I also saw many little frames of impaled beetles and 
butterflies such as I had seen i.. Quarles' rooms. 
The entire place had an old world look. 

The old fellow was a kindly, garrulous soul who 
required not the slightest pressure to set him talk- 
ing. Quarles, it appeared, had made quite an im- 
pression on him. "A handsome young fellow I" he 
said, "and such a gentleman." Quarles, he said, 
had been attracted into his shop by the butterflies, 
and Jiey had fallen into talk about butterfly hunting, 
of which sport both were devotees. Quarles had 
finally purchased three beautiful specimens of some- 
thing with a terrible Latin name. 

As he was about to le?ve, Queries had remarked 
that he was on his way out of town for a jaunt, and 
he had neglected to provide himself with any cya- 
nide. It seems that cyanide is what they use to kill 
the insects. In all innocence the old man had fur- 
nished it, and his customer with one more question 
had departed. Where was there a second hand 
clothes dealer? 

Cyanide of potassium, deadliest of poisons! I 
hastened to the second hand store with a sickness 
at the heart. 
They remembered Quarles here, too. The story 



no 



Thieves' Wit 



he had told here was that he wanted some worn old 
dodics to wear to a masquerade. He had been fur- 
nished with a complete outfit, hat, suit, shirt, socks 
and shoes. While things were being wrapped up, 
he had mentioned idly that he was a stranger in 
town, and he had a couple of hours to kill. He 
wanted to know of a trolley line that would take 
him out in the country. The storekeeper had rec- 
ommended the Annapolis short line as the pleasant- 
est ride on a mild evening. 

This had been about four, and it was now a little 
after SIX. I had caught up on him a little. I found 
that the cars left for Annapolis every half hour. 
By good luck the car which had left at four returned 
while I was Waiting in the station. I interviewed 
the conductor. He remembered Quarles. His at- 
tention had been attracted to him because, although 
he held a ticket to Annapolis, he had suddenly risen 
and left the car at the Severn river bridge station. 
1 took the six-thirty car for Annapolis. The con- 
ductor told me that the station at the bridge was 
used principally by summer residents who had their 
motor boats meet them here. At this season, early 
m May, there was but little business there. It was 
almost dark when I got off, a balmy, Spring evening. 
It was a lonely-looking spot. Th.re was a little set- 
tlement up a hill, with a path from the station, but 
I guessed that if my man had been attracted by the 
loneliness of the situation, he would not go that way 
I looked about. Crossing the track and climbing 
down to a deserted strip of beach beside the wide 



Thieves' Wit m 

sL"dJ°'""^ T"'** "y ""^"8''* 'hat a solitary per- 
son had gone that way before me H- '^ ^ 

ng a shapely shoe. /hist.„,d surelfbeT "Th'; 

T^u ^T.'"' ''•""S •'"!«!«= the river towa'rds its 
mouth, which was in view. On the other S fa' 
ther down. sparUed the lights of the Naval Acad.' 

woria, 1 tound the remains of a fire on the sand 
The embers were still gWing. Poking among tJ^m 

bi s of broT 1 "°"1^' '''' ''"' --"" ^S-d 
Dits Of broken glass. Here obviously, Quarles h J 

changed his clothes, and had destr^' d I expe„ 
s.ve garments he wore to the scene. Ev den , The" 
was counting on the fact- thn* ^u • Tr'^'^entiy he 
taken tn ^.f,Kr u u . f ^* '"ere is little trouble 
sufc r Tu^^f '^' •'^*="*'> °f « poorly dressed 
suicide. The glass was no doubt what remained of 
the case of butterfl es he had bouahf ""'"ea ot 

had changed his shoes with the rest Hll fi I 

this he would now be but a short distance ahead o 
wn'MY"^°^"T'^ half a minute-half o/ It 

"me to the mam road from Balrimore to An 
napohs which crosses the Severn by altheJlong 



112 



Thieves' Wit 



bridge. Automobiles crossed it at intervals. Since 
the footprints were not resumed in the sand across 
the road it was clear he had turned into it one way 
or the other. The river seemed likeliest. I started 
out on the bridge, dreading most of all to hear a 
splash just out of my reach. It was now quite dark. 
Out in the middle of the bridge dose to the draw 
I came upon a motionless, slouching figure with bat- 
tered hat pulled down over the face. Notwith- 
standing the shapeless clothes the tall slenderness 
was unmistakable. He was leaning with his elbows 
on the guard rail regarding something that he held 
in one hand. The object caught a spark frnm the 
red light of the draw overhead. It was the vial 
of cyanide. My heart bounded with relief. I was 
in time — but barely. 
"Quarles," I said softly. 

He straightened up with a terrified hissing intake 
of the breath. I turned the flashlight on myself to 
save lengthy explanations. 

"Youl" he said after a moment, in a low bitter 
tone. "God 1 must you dog me here I" 
"I am your friend," I said. 
He laughed. "Friend I" he said. "That's good !" 
Then his tone changed. "You'd better be on your 
way," he said threateningly. "I'm in no mood for 
fooling." 

"I've been trying to overtake you since noon," I 
said, merely to be saying something. An instinct 
told me there was nothing like a little conversation to 
let down a desperate man. 



"3 

"What 



She's 
I won't 



Thieves' Wit 

"Why, in God's name?" he demanded. 

good am I to you now?" 

"I no longer believe you guilty." 
"I don't give a damn what you believe." 
"I want you to help me find the thief." 
"It's nothing to me who took the pearls, 

got 'em back again. You'd better go on. 

stand for any interference." 

"You won't do it now," I said confidently. 
"Won't II" ' 

He made a move to uncork the little vial. I 
struck his wrist and it feU to the ground. We 
i.carched for it frantically in the dark. I had the 
light, and I saw it first. I put my heel on it, and 
ground the fragile, deadly thing into the planks of 
the bridge floor. He cursed me. 

^"There is still the water," I said. 

"I'm a swimmer," he said sullenly. "I couldn't 
go down. I meant to climb on ihe rail and take the 
stuff, so It would look like drowning. But there 
are plenty of ways." 

"Be a man and liver I said. 

He laughed again. "There's nothing in that cant 
for a man who's sick of the game." 

"Live for her sake," I hazarded. "She loves 
you. 

"You've mistaken your job, old man," he said 
with gnm amusement. "You ought to be a play, 
wnght. Write her a play. She's a great actress. 
Yah I Im sick of itl Lovel There's no such 
thing. Not in women! This is real, anyhow " 



H4 



Thieves' Wit 



i had got him talking. Something told me the 
crisis was past. I took a new tack. 

"She certainly has treated you badly," I said. "I 
don't wonder you're sore. I know just how you 
feel." 

He turned on me with clenched fist and a furious 
command to be silent. "It's no damned policeman's 
business what I feell" 

"Revenge is sweet," I murmured. 

It brought him up all standing. In the dirk I 
heard falin breathing quickly. 

"Do you want to crawl away like a cur and dif 'n 
a hole?" I ask^d. 

"Why in Hell can't you let me alone?" he said 
fretfully. "What do you want to drag me back 
for?" 

I saw I had him going now. "Make her suffer," 
I urged. "The most perfect revenge in the world 
IS yours if you want it, because she loves you." 

"What are you getting at?" 

"Prove your innocence to her." 

"I doubt if I could," he said weakly. "I shouldn't 
know how to begin. I seem to be caught in a net." 

"I am offering to help you." 

''What's your game?" he demanded suspiciously. 

"I've made a serious mistake," I said. "I've got 
my professional reputation to think of. Besides, 
I'm orJy human. I don't want to have your un^ 
timely ?nd on my conscience." 

'It needn't bt. I'm my own master." 
I decided to risk all on one throw. I laid a hand 



Thieves' Wit 115 

"You'an^r"'^"- "^°^ ^"'" ' «id frankly, 
rou and I are not strangers. We took to each 
other from the first, though I happened to be wear^ 
"Jg a d.sgu.se. I have suffered like the devil all day 

fnend. Friendship isn't ,uch a common thing in 
spue of all the talk about it. I should think yfu'd 
" •■Sv U.'f ^'"^ ^'•'" •**» °ff"'d to you" 
frie„d,h-' '•' «T"^^- "^ d""'* I'^licve in 

friendship I never had a real friend." But he 
didn t shake my hand off, 

"Try me." 

"Oh well, you've spoiled it for to-night, anyway 
ni hs en to ^at you've got to say. Vherrcan 

plaZ""' " '"''''" ^ "''* ^°y'""y- "I'« «nd a 



12 

WE proceeded on across the bridge into the 
town of Annapolis. First I took Roland to 
a lunch room and commanded 'lim to eat. I had a 
time getting him to swallow the first mouthful, but 
that once down, he developed a ravenous appetite. 
I suppose he had not eaten in thirty hours. It was 
comical to tee how, with a stomachful of hot food 
inside him, a zest in living renewed itself. The 
more his resolution weakened, the louder he in- 
veighed against life. But he had a sense of hu- 
mour. He suddenly became conscious of the ab- 
surdity of his attitude, and we laughed together. 
From that moment he was safe, and he was mine. 
There is nothing to cement a friendship like laugh- 
ter. 

Afterwards I got a room in an obscure hotel. 
Roland sat down on the edge of the bed, and pro- 
ceeded to give me his version of the matters that 
perplexed me so. In the middle o' a sentence he 
fell over and slept like a dead man. I stole out 
and telegraphed Sadie at Amityville that I had him 
safe and sound. Returning, I sat by the hour 
watching him. My heart was soft for the human 
creature I had snatched from the brink. He looked 
very boyish and appealing as he lay sleeping. He 
seemed years younger than I. I cannot tell you how 

116 



Thieves' Wit 117 

glad I was to think that there was warmth in the 
young body, and sentience under the shut lids. 

Shortly after midnight he awoke as suddenly and 
thoroughly as ha had fallen asleep. Then he wanted 
to talk. He \ is bursting with talk. I swallowed 
my yawns and set myself to listen. I let him talk 
in his own way, no questions. For a long time I 
listened to what I already knew, the tale of his jeal- 
ous, hopeless passion for Irma. Sometimes he had 
suspected that she inclined towards him, but it 
seemed preposterous to ask her to give up her pro- 
fession for him. On the other hand he knew he 
could not endure sharing his wife with the public. 
He had decided to go away without speaking— and 
then the miraculous legacy had dropped from the 
skies. 

"Tell me all about that," I commanded. 

•'I promised not to tell," he said reluctantly. 

"This is a matter of life and death. Why was 
a promise exacted?" 

"To avoid publicity." 

"There wiU be none," I said. "T pledge myself 
to guard the secret as well as you could." 

"I destroyed the letter I got, with the others," 
he said. "But I read it so often I can give it to you 
almost word for word." 

"Too bad it was destroyed I" I said. 

"CMi, you can verify the contents by the Amster- 
^*^ Trust Company who paid me the money." 

"But if you have a clear case what did you run 
Jbr ?" I jiskfd ^mvcd- 



ii8 



Thieves' Wit 



You will never understand," he said with a wry 
smile. "I seemed to die at that moment when I saw 
that Irma believed I was capable of robbing her. 
What did I care about my case?" 

Hearing that, my opinion of Sadie's perspicacity 
went up marvcUously. "Go on," I said. 

I took down the letter from his dictation. It was 
written, he said, on expensive note-paper, without 
address, crest or seal, in a large and somewhat old- 
fashioned feminine hand. 

"Dear Mr. Quarles: 

Although you <iave never heard of me I think of 
you as my dearest friend. I have followed your ca- 
reer from the time of your first appearance on the 
stage. X am one of those unfortunates who, con- 
demned to live, arc cut off from life. I watch life 
pass trom behind my iron screen. U is you who, all 
unconscious, have supplied me with a dream to cheat 
my emptiness. I have warmed my cold hands at 

"Now they tell me my release is at hand. I wish 
to show my gratitude to you in the only way that is 
possible to me. An artist's career is difficult and un- 
certain. I want to remove a little of the uncertainty 

"I must avoid giving rise to silly gossip which 
would grieve my relatives. To avoid the publicity 
ot probate I am making secret arrangements before- 
nand. An old friend will carry out my wishes for 
me when I am gone. 

J "Pt-'^?'^*°" ^.Y^ "*« * week longer. Upon my 
death this letter will be mailed to you. You will then 
Hear from the Amsterdam Trust Company that a 



Thieves' Wit 



119 



sum of money awaits your order. You will never 
know my „,„e. But i/you .hould let cvcnLbl" 
facts become known, some busybody would eventu- 
ri/^r T? ''T ""^^ ry """'• ""d unhapSy gSsip 

ke.n fh/t? ^*" ^ "H y°." ?» » "»»" Of Vonour to 
keep the whole transaction locked in your breast." 



'It was signed: 



"That is all," said Roland. 
'Your grateful friend.' " 

"Did you look in the recent obituaries for a clue ?" 
1 asked. 

"Yes," he confessed. "There was, ..one." 

I y°t "*'",'' ^'^^ y°"' '^'"■y- We'll return to the 
letter later." 

"At first I thought it was a hoax," he resumed, 
but sure enough, in two or three days I received a 
letter from the Trust Company asking me to call. 
I saw the President. He said that the sum of forty 
thousand dollars had been deposited with them to 
be turned over to me in cash. He said it had been 
bequeathed to me by one who desired to remain un- 
known. He said he did not know himself who my 
benefactor was. He had dealt with a lawyer. He 
said that there was but one condition attached to the 
legacy, namely that I give my word never to speak 
e the matter. I had met this Mr. Ambler the 
president, and he had seen me act, so there was no 
dlfficuI^/ about identifying me. I left his ofBce car- 
rying the money, and carried it to my own bank to 
deposit. That is all there is to that." 

"Good!" I said. "The Amsterdam Trust Com- 
pany is a solid institution, and the president a well- 



120 



Thieves' Wit 



They will itill be there if we need 



known man. 
them." 

"It muitn't get in the newipaperc," he uid nerv- 
ouily. 

"Truit me for that. I'm not going to make you 
break your word. Now about the bet you made with 
Mfit Hamerton." 

He winced at the lound of her name. "There's 
no more in that than appears on the surface," he 
said irritably. "I couldn't have told the paste from 
the genuine. I wanted to give her a box of gloves. 
But she never claimed them, and I forgot about it." 

"The cryptogram you have already explained," 
said I. ' 

"I did not know there was such a paper in mv 
pocket." 

"Hold on," he cried suddenly, "about that bet. 
I have just remembered that I once had a talk about 
precious stones, pearls, with a man in the company." 
"Milboume?" 

'"Sure! How did you know?" 
*'I believe he took them. But it's going to be a 
^b to prove it." 

"It was just fL trifling conversation," Roland re- 
sumed, thinking hard. "I can't remember exactly. 
He marked <he beauty and oddity of Ir — of Miss 
H8merton's;riecklace. I think he said he hoped that 
s^^ did not Ask wearing real pearls on the stage.. 
That may have been to find out if I knew they were 
artificial. 1 told him she did not wear the real ones. 
There w^j mpre talk, Hje .seemed tp Joiow abont 



Thieves' Wit lai 

pearli, ,„d I believe I „ked him how to teU the 
ml from the .rtifidal. I never thought of it then, 
but looking back I .ee that it may have been that 
talk which gave me the idea of making . bet with 
ir-^ithher. Oh, I have been a fool I" 
, Thii 1. all intereiting," I ,aid, "but it doein't 

thing. How did the real pearli get in your .afe?" 

Roland .truck hi. forehead. "I have been every- 
body', dupe I" he groaned. 

"It'« a part we all have to play occajionally," I 
said .oothingly. "Go ahead." 

"About thi. time I began to get circular letter* 
trom a firm of jcweUer. called Jone. and Sanford 
with an addre*. on Maiden Lane, where all the 
jeweller. u.ed to be. They were faciraile letter., 
very well written." 

"The kind that are made to look like penonal let- 
ters, but like false teeth, deceive nobody?" 

,1i7?k""^ L^^^^n^^eryfewday.. They were 
all to the effect that the writer, a. brokers, were pre- 
pared to sell precious .tone, at price, much under 
those a.ked by the big jewellers. There was a lot 
of rigmarole about saving on overhead charge., in- 
terest on valuable stocks and so on, about what you 
would expect in such letter.. There were a lot of 
impo.ing.looking reference., too." 

"At fir.t I paid no attention to the letters; pre- 
aou. stones didn't interest me. But when I got all 
that money I began to read them. You see I— I 
wanted to make Irma a present, and I knew she 



122 



Thieves' Wit 



loved pearls better than anything eUe in the world." 
I let a whittle of attoniihment out 'i me. "Do 
you mean to aay you bought Mitt Hamerton't pearii 
with the idea of preter ing her with them, to add 
to her collection?" 

He nodded thamefacedly. "I didn't know the 
had been robbed." 

"How long had you had them/" 

"Jutt a few dayt." 

He told me that he had ailced Mitt Hamerton to 
marry him, and intended the necklace for a wed- 
ding-gift if the contented. 

"You were a downy bird I" I exclaimed. 

"Wait tiU I tcU you," he taid. "They were a ilick 
pair. You might have been taken in yourtelf." 

"Did they know you?" I atked, ttiU full of amaze- 
ment. 

"Certainly. I paid for them by check, certified 
check." 

"Which they cathed within half an hour I" 

"Maybe. I never enquired." 

"Sold Mitt Hamerton't pearlt back to Mitt Ham- 
erton't leading man I" I cried. "My boy, we have 
tomething out of the ommon in crooks to deal 
with I" 

"They had a well-furnished tuite on an upper floor 
of a first-class office building," he resumed. "I was 
there three or four times. I saw other customers 
coming and going. Everyriiing was business-like 
and all right looking. Even the stenographer had 
a prim New England air. They showed me all 



Thieves' Wit 



M3 



kind, of precoui .tonei. I bit .t the pearl. beciu.e 
I recognued rh.t they were the „me kind Irm. h.A 
They „ked eight thousand dollan for them " 

„,riT°" '"• *"?"'* 5'°"' *•"' ^'" Hamerton'. 
necklace wai worth much more than that?" 

Yei. But I had been told her. were very fine 
and perfect. I .uppo.ed the.e to be not «, gLd " 

tookll'hZe?"" ''"' """'^ °" • ^'"'•"' •"'' 
"Not quite a. fa.t a. that. The jeweUer. .eemed 
to take It a. a matter of cour.e that I would have the 
pearl, exammed by an expert before purcha.ing. 
They ,ugge,ted that I take them up to Dun.any',." 
Dunsany'sl" I .aid amazed. 

n.,3r. ^""'* *•!" '"""«'' '° '"" "'»Pi"on? 
Dunsany, „ more than a jewelry ,tore; it', a na- 
tional institution." 

I'But you never took them there?" 

"Indeed I did," was the surprising answer. "San- 
ford and Jones' clerk went with me. We saw Mr. 
i-reer, the firm's expert on pearls." 

I whistled again. Freer, the man at Dunsany's 
to whom I had told my little fiction of the fiction- 
writer and who had looked so queer when I men- 
tioned blue pearls t 

"Large gentleman, elegantlynlressed, with a face 
like a boiled dumpling?" 

•'Sure I" cried Roland. "Do you know h' t , too ?" 
Oo on with your story I" I said. 
"Mr. Freer examined the pearls and told me they 



124 



Thieves' Wit 



II :' 



were genuine, and of good quality. He valued them 
at about twelve thousand dollars." 

"The devil he did I" I cried. "This case is spread- 
ing w.der and wider. Freer is in the gpng, too. To 
think of their havmg a picket in Dunsany'sl" 
How do you know?" 
"Because he like everybody else in the trade had 
been informed that the only necklace of blue-black 
pearls in the world had been stolen. He knew 

moreover, that it was worth " But here pru' 

dence stopped my tongue. 
"Worth what?" asked Roland. 
.3'"' """^'' "O'e than twelve thousand." 
zled '''"' ^^"^^ '" **"' ^°'^^^" ^^ "''^' P»2- 

"There's a lot about this necklace you don't 
know," I said smiling. "All in good time Goon 
with your story." 

"Well, that's aU, isn't it?" said he. "At least 
you faiow the rest. Why these fellows were so care- 

it;^ fif • ^°\'''" '^"^ ^"^ *''"'• ™P""t in gold 
inside the case Jones and Sanford, such and such 
a number, Maiden Lane." 

m,S' / '"uT ' ''"' °" "y '»'""J» now'" I "id 

"I'll work with you," he said. 

1 1^^ ^'t ''"°r.' ' '*•= y°" '''«<=' «^«nr minute," 
I «id, smilmg at him. "But you'd make the worst 
detective m the world." 
"Oh, well, maybe I would," he said. 



Thieves' Wit 125 

in hand to dear yo„ I^ I, ?k ''Z '^'''"" "K^^* 
up wfth"hTd'l"' "'""■"'! "" »«»- He leaped 
"Thae affJr i. dt.t'n f '/evT;' r'°""^'^- 

c»i mieves in the pubhc newspapers I" 



13 

BACK in New York next day, I made haste to 
get to work on the half dozen clues with which 
Roland had furnished me. 

I may say in passing, though the visit had no im- 
portant results, that I called on Mr. Ambler of the 
Amsterdam Trust Company. At first he declined 
to pve me any information whatever, but when I 
hinted that a certain suspicion rested on Mr. Quarles, 
he corroborated Roland's story as far as he knew it. 
He declined to give me the name of the attorney 
who had brought the money to the bank. "My en- 
dorsement of Mr. Quarles' story should be amply 
sufficient to clear him," he said, with the air of a 
bank president. 

"Undoubtedly," I said, bowing, and left. 

Since there appeared to be no immediate connec- 
tion between Roland's legacy and the theft of the 
pearls, I let that go for the present. 

I went to the address of the jewellers on Maiden 
Lane, but found, as I expected, that the birds had 
flown. An irate renting agent aired his opinion of 
Messrs. Sanford and Jones, but could give me no 
information of their whereabouts. They had 
leased the offices for a year, and after five weeks' 
tenancy, quietly moved out. 



Thieves' Wit 127 

"Don't you ask references from prospective ten- 
ants? I asked. 

"They gave Ai references," he mourned. 
I took down the names of their references for 
future use. One of them was Mr. Freer of Dun- 
sany and Company. 

My next call was upon Mr. Alfred Mount in his 
office behmd the store of exquisite fashion. His 
greetmg, while polite, was slightly cooler than of 
yore. As a man of the world, I was expected to 
gadier from it, that our relations were now at an 
end. It warned me to be wary. I was already on 
my pard because I knew that he hated Roland, 
and hoped to profit by his disgrace. 

"Anything new?" he'asked rasually. 

"Yes— and no," I said. "I am not satisfied that 
^^..rf ^^ 8°^ qu'te to the bottom of our case." 

'Do we ever get quite to the bottom of anything ?" 
he asked. * 

"I do not believe that Quarles was alone in this," 
1 said as a feeler. 

"What makes you think so?" he ask(;d quicklv. 

"Nothing definite," I said. "Just a feeling." 

He shrugged. 

"I believe that expert jewel thieves made a tool 
of hun," I suggested. 

"It is possible," said Mount, looking bored. 
If so, It is much to the interest of your business 
to run them down. So I have come to ask for your 
co-operation." 
"My dear sir," Mount replied with his mdulgent. 



128 



Thieves' Wit 



worldly smile, "the world is full of trouble. I do 
not try to escape my share; I face it like a man, or 
as near like a man as I can. But I never go search- 
ing for more. We have by vour skill recovered the 
jewels. The reasons for not pursuing the matter any 
further are to me obvious. Better let well enoueh 
alone." * 

I appeared to give in to him. "Maybe you're 
right. I thought I saw a chance to earn a little 
glory." 

"There will be plenty of opportunities for that," 
he said affably. "You can count on me." 

We parted, in friendly fashion. 

So much for Mr. Alfred Mount. At least he 
would never be able to say later that I had not given 
him his chance. 

I went to the magnificent marble building which 
houses Dunsany and Company, and asked boldly for 
Mr. Walter Dunsany, great-grandson of the founder 
of the house, and its present head. I was admitted 
to him without difficulty. I found him a jeweller 
and a man of affairs of a type very different from 
him I had just come from. Mr. Dunsany was a 
simple, unassuming man, direct and outspoken. In 
short, a man's man. I was strongly attracted to 
him, and I may say without vanity that he seemed 
to like me. From the first he trusted me more than 
I had any right to expect. 

At this time he was a man of about forty-fiv years 
old, somewhat bald, and beginning to be corpulent, 
but with a humorous, eager, youthful glance. He 



Thieves' Wit 129 

glanced up from my card with a whimsical smile. 
^^Confidential mvestigator? More trouble, I sup- 

named Freer, an expert on pearls." 
"I had until a few days ago." 
Ai, exclamation of disappointment escaped me. 
What s the matter with Freer?" he asked 
1 suppose you don't know where he is?" 
On his way back to Holland, I suppose. He came 
rrom there ten years ago. Why?" 

"One more question first. I am assuming that 
you know that a certann famous necklace of blue 
pearls has been stolen?" 

"Mount's pearls? Certainly. Everybody in the 
trade was advised. 

"You are sure Freer knew?" 
^'Certainly. It was h's business first." 
_ Yet a week or so ago, that necklace was brought 
into your store by a man who was considering the 
purchase of it. He submitted it to Freer. Freer 
pronounced the stones genuine, and said that the 
necklace was worth about twelve thousand " 

Mr. Dunsany jumped up and paced the room 
agitatedly. "Freerl" he exclaimed. "Impossible! 
lou are sure of your facts I" 

I described the operations of Messrs. Sanford 
and Jones. 

^ "Not impossible, I suppose," he said more quietly 

Ihis sort of thing has happened to me before. I 

doubt if there was ever a time when I was not har- 



130 



Thieves' Wit 



boring some thief or another. They never steal 
from me, you understand. They are the pickets, 
the outposts, who watch where the jewels go, and 
report to Headquarters. But Freer! He had been 
with me ten years. He had an instinct for pearls I" 
"Headquarters?" I said eagerly. "Then you 
agree with me that there is an organised gang at 
work?" 

"That's no secret," he said. "Every jeweller 
knows that there is a kind of corporation of jewel 
thieves. It is probably ten years old, and better 
organised and administered than our own associa- 
tion." 

"Why don't you break it up?" 

"Break it up I" he echoed. "It is my dearest am- 
bition 1 There has never been a meeting of our as- 
sociation but what I have urged with all my elo- 
quence that we get together and break up the thief 
trust. They will not support me. Everybody sus- 
pects that he has spies in his establishment, perhaps 
like Freer in a responsible position. The crooks 
seem to have us where they want us. They have 
never robbed us, you see. There is a sort of un- 
written agreement, you leave us alone and we'll leave 
you. The other men in the association say: 'If 
our customers are careless with their jewels, we are 
not responsible." But I say we are I These crooks 
have put us in a position where, if we do not go 
after them, we may be said to be in league with 
them." 



Thieves' Wit 131 

"Mr Mount is a member of the association, I 
suppose r 

"Mount? Oh yes, he's the president. To give 
Mount credit I must say that he has always suoported 
m^ m this matter, though not so warmly as 1 would 
haveliked. But I am considered a fanatic." 

Why don't you and he do it together?" I asked. 

Asso^ttr- '° '"'° " "''°"* *'' '""^"^ °^ »'>» 

"Why don't you go it alone?" I said. "You 
are powerful." 

He glanced at me sharply. "I will when I see 
my way, he said. "Such police officers and de- 
tectives as have happened to come under my ob- 

It7-T w? "°^"""«d »° '"<= the right men for 
the job. When I find my man " 

inh'^f ^°Y°"'t' '"*' " "" W''""' for the 
job ? I asked quietly. 

He studied me hard. "I should be difficult to 
satisfy," he said. 

"First of all as to references," I said. There 
were some good men who backed me. I gave him 
their names. 

''How about Mount?" he asked. 

"I have already applied to him for the job." I 
said frankly, "and was turned down. He is satis- 
fied with the recovery of the pearls. As long as he 
has refused to go in, I think it would be better not 
to let him know about our plans. That, however, 
IS up to you. 



132 



Thieves* Wit 



"I shall not let him know," Mr. Dunsany said 
briefly. 

To make a long story short, I succeeded in satis- 
fying Mr. Dunsany of my fitness to undertake the 
matter in hand. We concluded a defensive and of- 
fensive alliance. He let me understand that expense 
was to be no object. I saw him every day. We met 
at his club, which was as safe a place as we could 
find. 

I gave him my full confidence, of course. With 
Roland's consent I told him everything that had oc- 
curred up to that time. Mr. Dunsany for his part 
had a whole file of evidence that he had quietly 
collected. He turned it over to me. It was inter- 
esting, and in the end valuable, but it had nothing 
to do with the case of the blue pearls. 

We laid our plans with infinite care. There was 
no hurry now, and every move was planned in ad- 
vance. Absolute secrecy was imperative. Mr. 
Dunsany and I agreed not to take a soul on earth 
into our confidence. 

It was necessary to hire a small army of opera- 
tives. I did not figure in this. I had Peter 
Keenan, an old friend of mine, who was not known 
generally among my friends, act for me. Peter was 
a faithful, conscientious soul, not at all brilliant. He 
hired a suite of offices on Forty-second street and 
set up the "International Detective Agency." Peter 
was the nominal head, and Sadie the real directress 
of this establishment. Here the operatives were 



Thieves' Wit 



133 



hired and sent on their errands. Each did his lit- 
tle task knowing nothing of the general plan. 

Meanwhile Mr. B. Enderby was to be found all 
day in his office on Fortieth street with his feet on 
the desk, chinning with his young friends or com- 
posing a new play. You see the second cryptogram 
led me to suspect that they were aware of my iden- 
tity, and in case I were watched, as I surely would 
be, I desired to give the impression that I had 
dropped all activities in connection with jewels or 
jewel thieves. I communicated with Sadie by let- 
ter. Uncle Sam is at once the mo-,; public and the 
safest messenger. For emergencies we arranged a 
system of telephone calls. 

It would be a tedious task to set down all the rou- 
tme work of the agency. There were mistakes, dis- 
appomtments and blind trails without number. To 
begin with, Sadie was ordered to trace Freer, the 
pearl agent, also Sanford and Jones, the bogus jew- 
ellers, and any of their employees. All this entailed 
great kbour, and it was absolutely barren of re- 
suit. These people seemed to have vanished into 
thm air. In the case of Kenton Milbourne she was 
more successful. She wrote: 

"In my character of Miss Covington the actress, 
I called on several of the women of Miss Hamer- 
ton's company who gave me their addresses when 
we disbanded. From their gossip I learned with- 
out having to ask questions, that Kenton Milbourne 
has not disappeared. They have all met him on 
Broadway. He is apparently living the ordinary 



134 



Thieves' Wit 



life of an actor out of a job, going around to the 
different agencies to list hi* name, etc Hi» addreu 
II No. — Weit 49th itreet. 

xj.! '*"'' ■"°"««* *'>'"« °f ou' •»«»« men to keep 
Milbourne under lurveillance. The first, D. B., 
who hai been an actor, is working independently 
of the other two. He has engaged a room in the 
same house and will make friends with M. The 
other two operatives, A. N. and S. C, are to trail 
him turn and turn about." 

Thus the ground was laid out. Making my re- 
port in turn to Mr. Dunsany, I said: "It's all very 
well as far as it goes, but we must do some original 
work. Tracking the theft of Miss Hamerton's 
pearls ir. fillowing a cold trail. Our work is de- 
stroyed by the fact that the jewels have been recov 
ered. We must branch out." 
"What do you propose?" said he. 
"Let us lay a tempting bait for a new robbery, 
and catch them red-handed." 
"Go ahead I" 

"Arc you prepared to risk something choice in 
diamonds or pearls?" 

"Anything I have in stock." 

"Very well. First, however, we've got to get a 
man accepted into the inmost circle of the thief 
trust." 



generally conspicuous for the« qudWeT anrwhT 
they are rich into the bargain-Jhv t^K, " 

what d,eyVe got is usuallf L; hthe.t ,T„f %'? 
Mr Dunsany insisted on playing Sfole^f ^ 
ger in our projected drama H. 1 i ^ '^""^ 

135 



136 



Thieves' Wit 



in due coune at the foot of Manhattan Island, he 
gazed at the towering buildings with a wondering 
eye, and allowed himself to be guided to an hun.'^le 
hotel in the neighbourhood. 

I wai not there to meet him for a very good rea- 
son, but later in the day I received a note appris- 
ing me of his arrival. Two days later I had an- 
other telling me that having presented letters of 
recommendation, he had been engaged in the gem- 
setting shops of Dunsany and Co. I cannot do bet- 
ter than quote from his own reports. Far from 
being the usual cut and dried affairs, they were little 
human documents of humorous observation. 

Report of J. M. # a 

Wednesday, June jrrf. 
The morning after I landed, according to our 
program, I went to Dunsany's to apply for a job. 
I wonder if any merchant before me ever had the 
experience of besieging the doors of his own shop in 
a like humble capacity. Probably not. I enjoyed 
the experience. As soon as I opened the door I 
began to learn things about my own place. I always 
thought that my democratic ideas encouraged my em- 
ployees to treat me exactly like one of themselves, 
but I found that they did not — quite. Walking 
through the aisles I perceived a new atmosphere, a 
casualness, an indifference in the salesmen which 
shocked me at first, then made me want to laugh. 
The joke was on me I 



Thieves' Wit 137 

My letter of recommendation, which I had writ- 
ten myself naturally, gained me the entree to the 
prcent head of the firm. i.e.. my ,on Edward I 
approached hi, office with .ome nervousneT Here 
would be the first grand te,t of my di.gui.e Would 
ieVa?/r^'" ''' ^''^"^ A"^ 'f h^ did. would 
AnJ if V^!" "°' '° r' ""' »''"y '''^°« other. ? 

t^ct n i :i"°'' ''°."''' ^ •" ""« to keep my own 
face m the ludicrous aituation? 

I should say that in the matter of disguise I have 

followed your instructions carefully. The wi^ or 

toupee or transformation with which you furnifhed 

njc. complete y change, my appearance. W 

a. you showed me how to do. I am letting my own 
ha.r grow beneath and will .oon be able to UaT^ 
off the false, wh.ch will be a relief as it 1, both To! 
and .ticky. I„ addition it occurred to me to leave 
aside certam dental work which co.t me a lollf 

My clothe. I bought ready-made in a London 
emponum. Need I say more? The hat i, a won- 
der a sort of decrepit music-master affair of black 
sJn M T '" ""/°"''J«='"y tWrd or fourth hand-!^r 

l:^lLs:^:r'''''' ^-^-toha^ri; 

Eddie did not recognise me. He favoured me 

a little, but thi. was only natural caution in engag- 
mg an unknown man. In our business we havfto 



138 



Thieves' Wit 



be careful. I was well-pleased with Eddie's man- 
ner, succinct and business-like without a trace of arro- 
gance. Much better than my own manner, I dare say. 

Eddie was plainly annoyed by the situation, nor 
could I blame him. It was, of course, very irregu* 
lar. In effect we were breaking the alien labour law, 
beside opening up the prospect of labour troubles 
in our own shop. I knew exactly what was passing 
m the boy's mind, and I was longing to reassure him. 
Instead I had to make believe to be slightly over- 
awed in the presence of my little boy I 

He had no choicp in the matter, because I had vir- 
tually instructed him to employ this Mattingly. In 
addition to the letter of recommendation I had writ- 
ten him from London saying that I was sending such 
a man, an experienced jewel-setter, I had said, and 
had described Mattingly's appearance, so that he had 
no need to ask me to identify myself. 

Finally after asking a number of questions, to all 
of which I had the answers pat, Eddie engaged me. 
I followed him to an upper floor, hard put to it to 
keep from grinning at the idea of my boy showing 
me the way around the place. Fortunately the spec- 
tacles I wear help me to preserve an owl-like gravity. 

He took me to Ashley, the foreman of the gem- 
setting department. Ashley has been with us forty 
years. He is a surly, lovable old crab. It was un- 
der Ashley that I got my training in handicraft 
twenty-five years ago. Ashley regarded me with 
no favourable eye, but bowed to the mandate of the 
head of the firm, of course. He gave me a boy's 



Thieves' Wit 139 

woric cleaning old settings, and kept a shan, watch 

t^a? Im'* "^*i"" «°"^ '^^^ ™""^" be Je I found 
Uo^fm ne-r spoken .// of hi, mind to me 

tot" t •:• son" m"ot'? '^.^ '''" ^^-"P-^' 
as a meek al^en" J u '"'"'^'^' ""qucrading 

benefit of it ''°''™'"' "'"^ ""'-'^ the fuU 

««. >■« I fed . .^- J.'tSd >h™ ^"'ir''- 

rJn.!.*! V t . '° '""^e that his crazy ideas ar- 



140 



Thieves' Wj> 



generally comes off second best in their verbal en- 
counters. 

During one of their arguments the first day, I was 
much amused, and a little alarmed, when the talk 
turned on me. 

"You with your socialist talk I" cried Ashley to 
Mullen scornfully. "A man would think every boss 
was a homed devil! There's our old man now, 
what's the matter widi him?" 

"I don't know him," said Mullen with a leer. 
"We ain't on visiting terms." 

"He talks to 'us, simple and friendly, just like 
one of ourselves," said Ashley. 

"Sure I" cried Mullen. "It don't cost him nothin' 1 
I ain't seen him give up nothin' but talk, though. 
That's what he keeps you quiet with, a little soft talk 
like strokin' the dogl" 

"He don't set up to be no more than a man like 
myself I" said my defender. 

"Sure, and he is no more I" cried the other. "I've 
got as good an appetite for my meals as him, and my 
kids is as strong and handsome as his. But there 
he is sailing across the ocean in a soot de luxe, and 
here am I sweating at his bench." 

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" asked 
Ashley, whereat all the men on his side crowed. 

"Do ?" cried Mullen. "I'm goin' to give him fair 
value for his wages, that's what I'm goin' to do. But 
I don't have to lick the hand that pats mel" 

"A man can do what he likes with his own, I 
guess," said Ashley. 



Thieves' Wit 



141 

"hIT^v ^ °'"'J'l "" *' surprising answer. 
He didn't earn ,t. did he? It was the suTplu, tha 

"His grand-dad started as a workman like our- 
"^ves •• sa.d Ashley. "Only he was the best woX 
man, so he went ahead." 

"I doubt that," said Mullen coolly. " 'Tain't the 

GranIS 7''" *." '''' '*''"''• "^ *»'» ^ha^Jest 
GrandKlad was sharp enough to get ahead of the 
odier workman. AH right, . say. Let him en oy 
wha he can get. But does that give his family he 
nrht to run us to the end of time ?" 

lev a'^^Sn* "llJT ^°'"^ '° ^° "'"'"* '*?" "''^d Ash- 
\a u ^'* ""PPorters laughed. 

Mullen turned to me unexpectedly. "What have 

Zklo 7 tT>' ""'"'' Y- '""^ -hat they 
Jour ideas » ^ ^"^ ""°'' '^' ""^" ^'^ "' 

can'l ttjir '"'"' "^^ '"'"'" ^ "•'^ ^""y- "H°w 
•'I don't mean him," said Mullen scornfully. 

andVa;2S7 '"^ '^ '■"^' '"^"- ' '""" ^''^^ '""- 
I shook my head. 

h ."^V '^7, '""/ *'''^'" °^" tl'«-= m like they do 
here, I see," said Mullen, turning away 

thilThuf „'l^' *" ^" *'''* ^•'"'"^ '^'•^" !"««* °»t of 

MTanil^l T""'" '" '°'"'"°" ^"'"^ I "">»* "«• 

fj,;. h T J *T°'*' y°" "« wondering what all 

this has to do with our case. Have patience with 



142 



Thieves' Wit 



i I 

li 
M 



mc. I am so absolutely alone in my new life, I must 
have somebody to air my thoughts to. The eve- 
nings are the hardest to put in. The club calls me 
with a siren voice. Eddie's wife is away, too, and 
I *hink of the boy dining alone. I wish we had 
taken him into our confidence, but I suppose it was 
wiser not to. 

I have changed my boarding-place. Couldn't 
stand the fare at Mrs. McMahon's. I am now at 
a French place No. — West 29th street. It is 
humble enoi|gh to suit my altered station in life, but 
the cooking being French is not impossible. I have 
mitigated my lot by buying a jug of excellent Bor- 
deaux at Bardin's, which I have with my dinner 
without exciting suspicion. I am aiming to get the 
name of a "character" which will enable me to do 
pretty much as I please. 

The only break I have made so far was upon the 
avenue yesterday. I was on my way home from 
work and my wits were wool-gatuering. I was 
dreaming, I suppose, of where I would like to go 
for dinner. Along came Warner Macklin, an ele- 
gant old dandy and a club acquaintance of mine. 
Without thinking, I nodded to him as I would ordi- 
narily. You should have seen his affronted stare. 
The old snob 1 Anyhow it testifies to the efficacy of 
my disguise. 

If you would like to look me over I will be walk- 
ing up and down in front of the dairy lunch on 
Thirty-fourth street East of Sixth avenue at Twelve- 
thirty to-morrow, Thursday, J. M. 



Thieves' Wit 
Report op J. M. #4 



143 



I am DremfJ uu T ''''•^ ^''" ^"""^n fellow I 
1 am pretty well shaken into my job by now The 

in the Vor ff "rhoorth °' ^'°"^ °' ""*'«'°" 

exciting than this ahead' " "'"""'•'"« ™°« 

I have neither seen nor heard anvfl,:„» 
m any of my fellow^mployees T^ uT^'^r' 
to swear thev are ,11 T'*''^"^ ^ '^"uW be willing 

others too Sat rm„!i ''"T" ^'^' '°^^ ^e! 
my felowiJeatreT 1 v""1^ *° '''"'"^ *^«= ''"» «^ 

ToKiay^^r?;:; Vtti; hTuVfnr r'^- 

account of vacations. I got a ste^J" '\' ,*^P °" 
me at the bench where I Jl ^ ^^ '^'''''y P"* 
settings on ortrJoT^S "tWsT"' '7" ^^^ 
we need to carrv out o„ "? J • ' "'"'^'y ''^^ 

thanhe.opeS«l?; t";;S r^I^;^^^^^^ 

resulrtr "'" '''""' '""'^ *''"«= ^ P"« » «rst<lass 

J. M. 



15 

AT this stage I cannot better carry my story for- 
ward than by continuing to quote from the re- 
ports of different operatives. To me these arc fasci- 
nating documents. Their sober matter-of-factness 
is more thrilling than the most exciting yam. With 
a wealth of seemingly irrelevant detail they build up 
a picture more convincing than any except those of a 
master of fiction. One has to be in the secret, of 
course. The operatives themselves are not sup- 
posed to know what it is all about, though they may 
guess a little. But to be in the secret of a case and 
to read the reports bearing on it from a hundred 
angles, ^ves one a strange sense of power. 



Report of D. B. 



According to my instructions I applied for board 
at number — West Forty-Nindi street, Mrs. 
Atwood, landlady. I gave my name as Winston 
Damall, and made out I was a character actor just 
in from the road. I engaged the rear hall room top 
floor. The place is an ordinary actor's house, con- 
siderably run down. The landlady has only lately 
bought the business from another woman, so it hasn't 
M4 



Thieves' Wit 



145 



got the familiar friendly air of . long^stablished 
place. 

At the supper table I recognised my man Kenton 
Milbournc from the description furnished. He's 
an unusual looking man— unusually homely He 
doesn't keep to himself at all, like a fellow with 
something on his mind. He seems to be on good 
enough terms with the other boarders, but they keep 
out of his way because he's such a tiresome talker. 
There s one or two old feV *8 that go around with 
him. They sit in the parlour and talk by the hour 
about what dandy actors they are. 

Milbourne has the large front room on the third 
floor. As luck would have it, the hall room adjoin- 
ing was vacant, and there is only a thin board parti- 
tion between, because the hall-room was originaUy 
an alcove. But I judged this was too much of a 
good thing. I was afraid of taking the hall room 
for fear of putting M. wise. Maybe later, when 
we re friends I can move. 

tJ "?'"?..'". "'' "'•' *° P'* "P Milbourne. 
Thought Id better wait awhile and give him a 
chance to make up to me. Meanwhile I jollied the 
landlady. She was a talker like all of them. Mil- 
bourne, it seems, is her pet. She holds him up as a 
model for the other boarders because he paid her 
four weeks board in advance when her rent feU due. 
This seems to indicate he means to stay a while. 

AU the boarders look up to Milbourne with a 
kind of respect because he's just closed his season 



146 



Thieves' Wit 



with a first-claw company, while the reit are mostly 
with repertoire companies, and cheap road shows. 

The second night I was there, Milbourne braced 
me m the parlour. Looking for a new listener, I 
guess. He started in to tell me what a hit he made 
with the I ma Hamerton production. If this man is 
a crook he's the smoothest article I ever ran up 
against. Because he isn't smooth at all. He talks 
all the time about himself as simple as a child, but 
at that he don't tell you much. He's got a dull eye 
which don't seem to take in nothing, and he talks in 
a slow, monotonous way and says a thing over and 
over until you're doped. 

A couple of nights later some of the younger 
boarders were having a bit of a rough house in the 
parlour and M. asked me up to his room where we 
could talk in peace. His room was bare like. He 
don't show any photographs or pictures or gim- 
cracks. Seems he never even unpacks his trunk. It 
was a big trunk even for an actor, and packed neat 
and full as a honeycomb. Whenever he wants a 
little thing he unlocks it, takes out what he's after, 
and locks it again, even though he's right in the 
room. The key is on a chain fastened to his waist- 
band. 

His talk was mostly about the Irma Hamerton 
company. He told me what he says is the rights of 
the story about her sickness, and the unexpected 
closing in the middle of good business. She was in 
love with her leading man, Roland Quarles, accord- 



Thieves' Wit 



147 



lb*ou?Qi,c.^*'"^ '^^ *°° '*' '°' "^ *° "y 

I didn't take much itock in all this. It is the wav 

a_poor actor likes to talk about one who rises above 

said''th",l^"!''" l*"^ ^'" """"'"oni Milbourne 
said that just a, she was going to marry him she 
found out that he had a wife already. Without ex! 
artly saymg so he let on that it was he, Milbourne. 
who had put her wise to the young man. That' 
the way they go on. She had hysterics, he said, and 
broke up the show. As proof of his story, he said 
that Quarles had disappeared and nobody knew 
where he was, not even his old servant. 

As I talk more with Milbourne I see that he isn't 
so simple as he likes to make out. He has a way 
of sandwiching m little questions in his dull talk, that 

Inri'V/'"'' ''^"*'r "°»-<=«™ning i.; the 
end. He didn't get anything on me though. My 

rl7hT " •); ^t' '" •* y"- ^ ^'"^^ »" id« that 
he has '""'"'"""y •""" experience acting than 

Sometimes he lets slip a clever remark that don't 
fit in with his character of a bonehead at all. For 
instance, we were talking about the Chatfield case 
that aU the papers are full of now, and Milbourne 
Says I 

•My optritive went into considerable detail here «• to Mil 
bourne-, opinion of Rol.nd. Mo.t of it I h.„ d. eteA ^n^ t' ' 
w.. no more thin me.ningle., .bu.e. 

B. E. 



148 



Thicvca' Wit 



Put t police helmet on any man, and ri^t away 
hit brain teems to take the shape of it. Cops think 
at much alike at intectt. Let a crook once get on 
to their way of thinking, and he can play with them 
like a ball on a rubber ttring." 

He let this out by accident. Afterwardt he looked 
at me tharp to tee if I had taken anything amitt. I 
never let on. 

I have been in thit house a week now, and Mil- 
bourne and I are supposed to be quite intimate 
friends. Last night on my way up stairs I saw a 
light under his door, so I knocked. His door is 
always locked. He wasn't any too glad to see me, 
but he couldn't very weU keep me out, because he 
hadn't started to undress yet. He was having a 
little supper: a bottle of a syrupy kind of wine and 
biscuits with some blackish stuS he said was caviare. 
I didn't take any. I marked the labels, and to^lay 
I went into a swell store and inquired the prices. 
The wine was Imperial Tokay. It is $2.50 the 
small bottle. The caviare was $1.50 for a little 
pot. I give this for what it's worth. Seems funny 
if a man has a taste for such swell eats he should put 
up at a joint like Mrs. Atwood's. 

D.B. 

Report of A. N. 

Operative S.C. and I were instructed to trail a 
certain K. Milboume, supposed to be an actor, and 
report on his habits and his associates. We were 



Thieves' Wit jj^ 

furnUhed with hi. de.cription, .„d «„t to w.tch 

Doardi. Th,. houte ii . few doori from Eiirhth 
Avenue. We Icept w.tch from oufide . c^„ 
.aloon over the way. We turned up our coUan and 

A?xoo;Vm ''^ "«"'»' ~-" loaf:?."""' 
th I M^ A.M. our man came out and walked ud 

•jeet. He turned down Broadway with the crowd 

tjlT:A-^1 °''" ""PP''^ '■" '~"t of "ore win" 

^edinat .^orirdw^-jtUKS^ "j 

eked up aj.d went after him Went up i„ the!am 

eieyator. He gave everybody m the car . .K,«, 

look. Got out at the ei^hth^Boor a„5 wentl^S 

W- "•"'"'•• "^"- Mcndo„: SS 

I went back down-stair, to wait. Thi, building 

nth "trtr?. Z t't'Broir "J ^'^i 
I watched the .ide .treet "^'''' ^°°'' ""** 

door He walked around into Broadway, and S^C 

T^t r "I '"'f "' '^''^ " down' a. lar „ 

Sit """'"' """* '^" ^""'''J «™"nd and went 
back to Forty-second. without leaving Broadway ^r 
stopping anywhere. Turned We.t on ForJ..econd 
and went mto the office of the D. and E^BoSt 
agency m the -orre.t Theatre. Stayed twenty fivf 



150 



Thieves' Wit 



minutes. Came out and went down Wett lide of 
Broadway. At Thirty-ninth atreet met an actor 
and stood with him twenty minutes talking loud, and 
looking around them the way they do, to see if any- 
body is noticing. The talk was all theatrical gossip 
which I was instructed net to report. 

Looked at his watch and went on down to the 
36th-37th street block, where he walked up and 
down about seven times, stopping at each end to 
look in the same store window, and then coming 
back. We watched from a music store where we 
were making out td listen to the piano-player. 

At 12 150 he met a man as if by surprise. They 
greeted each other so loud everybody rubbered. 
But it was all a stall. Right away they came down 
to business and talked low and serious to each other. 
My partner and I brushed against them, but we 
couldn't hear much. Too much noise in the street. 
I heard Milbourne say: "The grub is rotten I 

More than flesh and blood " 

His friend replied: "My dear fellow, it's worth it, 
isn't it? Be reasonable. You're safe. We're all 

safe " 

The two of them turned North walking arm in 
arm, still talking low. At the Forty-ninth street 
comer they parted. Milbourne turned West, on 
his way home presumably, and his friend continued 
North. S. C. went with M. and I took after the 
stranger. 

He was a big fat man, but energetic. He looked 
like a theatrical manager or a promoter. He wore 



Thieves' Wit 



151 

p.v.„„.,»<,, .. , .Vd .,.•■?*!;'- ^^ 

way. it w,i a regular fat man's walk, the knee. 
10. weight about 220: dark brown hair and eve. 

the^*Iwl"^• •'"' ^' "°""^ °''" «"<! w«t down 

the .ubway stair .pry a. a kid. Got on the Rnt 

tram : I took a .eat in the adjoinine car AtZ „/ ! 

.tation Columbu. Circle. LlXiy ^J^^^^ 

and left the tram. But I wa. with him He .tayed 

on the station platform. For a little while the 4o 

loo" men X "•"" ^' ^^^ "^ • «-5 ^'"d 

} :« in'Tel^ft^aTaUr "™^ "'°"^ '' *°°^ '*• 

At Sevcnty-Second .treet he got out anin This 

Zr! ofTh" ''k ''• ' ""^''^'^ ^''"" ''^Wnd the glas 
doors of the .ubway .tation. I thought he wa. Jait 

?a.s^';rr t H 5"' 'I'''"'' ''^ -"^^ ' " "- 
bufl did ""^ *° ''""P "^"'^ »° ««» on it. 

For near an hour we rode around, hopping from 
car to subway, and back to a car ag^in, with a riT 
m a tax. m between. Of course I C b^this time 
that^e was on to me, but I stuck, hoping' Lra'S: 



152 



Thieves' Wit 



Later at the Ninety-sixth street station he darted 
down the steps again, me a good second. This sta- 
tion is always crowded. A woman blocked me at 
the gate, and he gained a few seconds. There was 
an express train waiting. Just as I reached it the 
guard closed the door in my face. Fatty was just 
inside. As the train started he turned around and 
thumbed his nose at me. I felt cheap. 

A.N. 



i6 

Report from Australia 

REFFRRTVr * Melbourne, May 20th 

r«DcS *° T' '"""'^ °^ ^''^ 'O* ultimo 
respecting one Kenton Milbourne said to h. 

bo JrS; wrira" Jd" rrh-*'" ^'"^°" ^^''■ 

America CyL Mr m1"'"* '"'' ""''^ ^" 
appearing a, ~ iJZ^'lTIT " ''^ ?"«"* 
^uring the province of New^out^^vfaTs " mT 

f„l']l*'*SP!'°^°«"P'> y°" enclosed, we are in 
>53 



154 



Thieves' Wit 



John and the black sheep of the family, who went to 
America ten years ago, after having been implicated 
m the robbery of Morton's Bank, Melbourne, No 
proceedings were ever taken against him. 

From the same informant we learn that no one in 
Australia has heard of Evan Whittlesey since he 
went away, except possibly his brother who is reti- 
cent on the subject, suggesting that what information 
he has of his brother is not perhaps creditable. 

At this writing we arc unable to furnish any in- 
formation regarding Evan Whittlesey's early l.fe 
beyond what is contained in the general statement 
that he was "wild^" that is to say, a trial to his 
parents and his respectable brother — whose stage 
name he appears to have borrowed for his American 
activities. If you desire us to go to the expense of a 
thorough investigation of Evan Whittlesey's past, 
please authorise by cable. 

Trusting to be favoured with your future com- 
mands, etc. 

WiLLARD, WiLLARD AND GaINES. 

The next report from which I will quote is Sadie's. 
It contained an unpleasant surprise. In order to 
make it clear I must briefly explain the arrangements 
of the International Detective Bureau. We had 
three offices en suite on the sixth floor of a building 
on West Forty-Second street. The door of the first 
room faced the elevators, and upon it was lettered 
our sign. Within was a neat railing, behind which 
•tt Peter Kecnan the ostensible head of the estab- 



Thieves' Wit ,55 

The lecond IM. room wag »pp„,ed b, ,1,, ,„ 

«.Itro:;j^.:tist't""^"'°''- 
iiis«r.,"io":ri'or '- *°"^" '-« 

on Sadie as one of i , "P""''^" looked 
Kcenan "the bos": Thf Tof S' T' .r/''"^'^ 
opened on a side corrido' soTat tie men '^ '°'"" 
seen around the front office '" '''" "''^^ 

Report of S. F. (Sadie Farrell) 

Last evening at 5 .-15 operative S. C. came into the 
office wthout instructions. He had been toS I Je 



156 



Thieves' Wit 



This morning I heard loud talking in the front 
ofiSce. Mr. Keenan explained later that a queer old 
man had come in, and had told a long rambling story 
about being persecuted. It seems that he wanted 
to engage the agency to protect him. It seemed a 
natural enough thing — we have had these harmless 
cranks before. Mr. Keenan soothed him down by 
telling him we were too busy to do proper justice to 
his case, and referred him to the police station. 
Neither of us thought anything more about it. 

This afternooii shortly before five I heard the 
old man's voice again in the outer o£Bce. Mr. 
Keenan had stepped out to post some papers to you. 
The old man was excited, and I could hear by Miss 
Reilly's voice that she was very much frightened. 
So I went to her assistance. 

I saw a bent, old man in shabby black, with wild, 
straggly hair, broken teeth and red-rimmed eyes, 
a repulsive sight. The instant I laid eyes on him I 
saw that he was not very insane. His manner was 
both servile and threatening. It was like stage in- 
sanity, incoherent jabbering and wild gestures. The 
girl was frightened half out of her wits. 

I asked him what he wanted, and he calmed right 
down. His speech was unintelligible as if he had 
some of those tablets in his mouth that actors use to 
make their voice thick. He made no more trouble. 
He bowed and smirked and backed out of the door. 
The last thing I heard was a silly kind of laugh. 

By this time I was full of suspicions. He had 
quieted down much too quickly. Besides, there was 



Thieves' Wit 157 

S ^ tf^ '"*'"'" °^ ^''^ '•'''"or boys. They 
".d the old man had been in three time U,t 

evemngasweUastwicetoHlay. LastniirK 

up in the elevator with opemive S c l^^"^^^ 

S. C called up about this time to report that Mil 
boumc had not left his boarding-house aUdly Mr 
Keenan questioned the operative over the phone aj 
my prompting, and we discovered that S C h?H 

that S. C. had lost Milbourne about i -lovV.rr 
He^had me. ^ly .„ppo,ed that he had gone home 
holt"'l?H:ZVu '""."P ^'i^oumes boarding. 

i^"nrh::h^dtttfcrj^^^^^^^ 
hr?irw?;™^'r^-"^^^^^^ 

?a°fa-„l M r '^'P'"'* °" *^"*= operatives. Since 
talkmg to this woman I have received D. B 's renor^ 

ga^ thel ""r.^"'^ ^'^'^ '* ~"1'J be that 
give the old man a familiar look, I suddenly got it 

rger, afterwards given to Richards? The man- 



158 



Thieves' Wit 



agement thought Milboume's conception was too 
realiitic, but Milbourae himself was childishly proud 
of his make-up in that part. He showed us a photo- 
graph, do you remember? Well, that was the same 
old man, wrinkles, scraggly hair, mean smile and all. 
The same clothes. 

It is easyto figure out now what happened. After 
giving the operative the slip in the department store, 
Milboume went to some friend's room or thieves' 
hangout and disguised himself. He then returned 
to the neighbourhood of the boarding-house on 49th 
street and watched the watchers there. When S. C. 
was relieved by A. N. at five, Milboume followed 
S. C. into the office. He was smart enough to see 
on his first visit to-day that Mr. Keenan was not the 
real head of the office, and so he bothered us until 
I betrayed myself. Hence the laug^ when he went 
out. 

I need not say how sorry I am for the accident. 
I blame myself quite as much as S. C. Luck played 
right into Milboume's hand this time. I see how 
important it is. He knows of the connection be- 
tween you and I, consequently all your trouble to 
let it be supposed that you are out of the case goes 
for nothing now. 

I have replaced S. C. with the new man, W. J., 
who came so well recommended. I have put S. C. 
at clerical work. Shall I discharge him altogether? 



S.F. 



Thieves' Wit 

Report of J, M. No. 5 



159 



On Saturday afternoon after work aZJ-^'** 
wiia wnicn 1 am provided to M . '. r.,™- u 

oucn eyes I am sure, would look on at the murder 
of a parent unconcerned— if there was ZJh- • 
't. I believe you are riorh^ ;„ • *"y*'""K "» 

«.n. Good J,„\-^S-;^- ;•-- "^ ;k. 

But he was afraid of me. He offered to ienA ™ 

3:7 °"7J '^r'"''^' ''"* declined to p^lr 
He demanded to know how Jf J,,^ • P'"^'^""^. 



i6o 



Thieves* Wit 



stone out of my wife's engagement ring. The ring 
itself she still wore with its empty setting. Such 
was the pathos of the tale that I almost succeeded in 
convincing myself that it was true. It didn't matter, 
of course, whether the pawnbroker believed it or 
not, but it had to be a good story on the face of it, 
because it would be fatal to my chances of success if 
I gave the impression of being a fool. 

The hard eyes gave no sign one way or another. 
One could hardly expect a pawnbroker to be moved 
by a hard luck story. He told me to come back on 
Monday at noon, and he would see what he could do 
for me. 

I hastened up there as soon as we were released 
for the lunch hour to-day. There were two men 
loitering in the store ; men of the same kidney as the 
astute proprietor apparently, very sprucely dressed. 

M, himself ignored me for the moment and this 

precious pair gave me the "once over" as they say. 
I could feel their eyes boring into me like gimlets. 
However, it is possible to be too sharp to be dis- 
cerning. They were deceived. A scarcely per- 
ceptible sign passed between them and the pawn- 
broker, and the latter suddenly became aware of the 
existence of his shabby customer. 

He now "showed me what he intended for a real 
friendly air. He couldn't buy my diamond himself, 
he said, but seeing he felt so sorry for me he would 
send me to a diamond broker he knew, who would 
do business with me if I satisfied him it was on the 
level. He gave me an address near by. I enclose 



Thieves' Wit 



i6i 

Ae card, but neither the name nor the address means 
anything of course I went there at once, risking a 

t" IheTo '" '^ ^ ^" '*'" «'"'"8 •'«'' 

It was a room on the second floor of a typical 
Third avenue house, shop below, furnished rooms 
above, and the elevated road pounding by the win- 
dows Evident y there had been a hasty attempt 
to make It look like an office; a desk had been 
brought in and the bed removed. Behind the desk 
sat a fat man rolling a cigar between his thick lips, 
and trymg to look as if he were not expecting me. 
He looked prosperous in a common way, with his 
silk hat on the back of his head, and his immense 
kapmg cutaway. His face was red and what passes 
for good-humoured with little pig eyes lost in fat 
A huge moustache with curled ends, decorated it, the 
kind of moustache that I thought even New York 
pohticians had given up nowadays. In a phrase, 
the manlooked like a ward leader «f fifteen years 
ago. Tlic most characteristic thing about him was 
IMS busding energy, unusual in one so fat 

This aUeged diamond broker was making out to 
De very much occupied with business. He kept m- 
wa.tmg a while. As soon as he took the diamond 
m his hand I saw that he knew nothing about stones. 
He didn t even have a glass to examine it. Evi- 

.Ill-L?' T'^.l'l'^ ''"" P"'*'^ t° h™ that it was 
aU nght. But if he knew nothing about diamonds, 
toe was well experienced in humanity. He put me 
tnrough a gruelling cross-examination which I sup- 



I62 



Thieves' Wit 



ported a> beit I coulA My delicate problem was 
to lead him to tuipect I wat a crook, without letting 
him think I wat a fool. To this end I elaborated 
the story of my old wife's engagement ring. He 
listened to it with a leer in his little eyes, as much as 
to say: "Pretty good old fellow I But you needn't 
take all that trouble with me!" 

He expressed himself as satisfied, and we passed 
to the discussion of the price. I asked something 
near the stone's real value. He laughed, and of- 
fered me a fifth of that. We were presently hotly 
engaged in humanldnd's first game, bargaining. He 
loved it. Unfortunately I was handicapped by the 
necessity of getting back to work. We agreed on a 
price which was about a quarter of the stone's value. 
No doubt he would have had more respect for me 
if I had held out longer. He paid me out of an 
enormous roll of greasy bills. 

I was sorry to see the stone go. It was a good 
one, nearly two carats. It was not safe of course to 
mark it in any visible way, but I have had this and 
the other decoy diamonds carefully described and 
photographed, so that we will have no difficulty in 
identifying them later. 

As I was about to leave he shook my hand in 
fnendly fashion, and still with that indescribable 
leer, expressed a hope that he might do further 
business together. 
I mumbled something about a pair of earrings. 
"Good!" he said. "Let me see them. Even if 
you don't want to let me have them, I'll appraise 



Thiew.' Wit 



i«$ 



I declined to give it 

t«ll you where you c.^^J^^' """''«"'") -» 
I «ot back to n,y work ju.t in time to .void a fine. 



J.M. 



Report of J. M. No. 6 



•trcct I ran into my fat friend H^ Thirty-Fourth 
eet Which slap the pavement resoundingly. His 

su lenlv for T w;^ »1 • l "• Somewhat 

Hin,.i^or,erthr iT^^xiireSir --', 

Ufd tr'.;"'" '"^ •^"''^ restaurantTg^STef He 
f« man "" *° ^'" ""^ "'""«• "» 'ouJ jolly 

fat-man ways provide a cover for . consfde Sk 



i64 



Thieves' Wit 



•ituteneii. It was my game to make out that I wai 
startled to be found in that neighbourhood, and that 
my conscience was none too good. It was his game 
to put me at my ease and have it understood that 
everything went between friends. Nothing was 
said, however, about his business or mine. 

I stuck to my lately-arrived immigrant story, and 
he symphathised with my lonesomeness in a strange 
land. He was a bachelor, he said, and often lone- 
some himself. This line led presently to an invita- 
tion for me to join him last night for a little socia- 
bility at the Turtle' Bay Caf6 on Lexington Avenue. 
I accepted it. I am sure by his eagerness to culti- 
vate my acquaintance that he knows I work in 
Dunsany's. 

I met him at eight o'clock, and we secured a little 
table to ourselves in a sort of alcove. The Turtle 
Bay is just one of the usual saloons, mahogany, plate 
glass and electric lights. The principal lure of such 
places is the dazzling flood of light they cast on the 
pavement. They have discovered the subtle psycho- 
logical appeal of li^t. Away with night and its 
terrors J 

My fat friend was liberally hospitable. I allowed 
my suspicious sullen manner to be charmed away by 
degrees. In a way he is really entertaining with his 
gross humour and rude vitality. I suppose any one 
can charm when they have a mind to. The cloven 
hoof, however, peeped out in his brutal snarls at 
the newsies and beggars who came to our table. On 
the whole I enjoyed myself. It was a lot better 



Thieves' Wit 



i<^ 



thin mooning in my wretched room, or wandering 
the lultry .trecti thinking of the cool and comfort- 
able club. 

The will being good on both sides we got along 
famously. No actual confidences have passed be- 
tween us yet, but we are ripe for them. As we mel- 
lowed together I allowed it tn peep out that I had a 
bitter grudge against soricty. and uould stop at 
nothmg to feed it He enthisiastically applauded 
my sentiments. 

"Life is a bank !" he said, "that's got to be busted 
into if a man wants to enjov any of the good things 1" 

I am to caU him George Pawling. We have i 
date to meet at the Turtle Bay again to-mon „ 
night. I hinted that I might have another diam-na 
or two. 

I was glad to hear from you that this mar, h 
undoubtedly one of the gang. So I am on the r-rfj 
track! 

J.M. 



17 

IDONT want to give you too much of the opera- 
tives* reports. I tell myself it is not to be ex- 
pected anybody would have the same absorbing in- 
terest that I have in all the ramifications of the 
case. So I will go on with my story in the ordinary 
way. 

After the catastrophe, it will be remembered, Miss 
Hamerton and Sadie had gone into the country to a 
little retreat I chose for them. After a day or two 
Sadie, seeing that Miss Hamerton could be left 
alone, would in fact be better Ame, returned, and 
took up her work on the case as has been seen. 
Later, that is about the first of June, Miss Hamerton 
was so far recovered as to be able to go to South- 
ampton, and open her cottage for the season. 
Now, towards the end of the month, I learned that 
she had come to town for a few days to talk over 
next season's plans with her manager. All of which 
was encouraging as far as her health and spirits 
were concerned. But thinking of my friend Roland, 
I was not anxious to see her recover too quickly. 
I had kept my promise to him, and Miss Hamerton 
was unaware that I was still busy on her case. 

I was shy about going to see her. My feeling 
was, considering her position and mine, that if she 
wished to keep up the connection she ought to give 

166 



Thieves' Wit 



167 



me some sign. I confess I was a little hurt that 
1 had not received any. 

One day as I was returning to the office after lunch 
1 met her stroUing up the avenue with Mount. 
When I caught sight of her the whole street bright- 
ened for me with her loveliness. I watched her 
coming for half a block before she saw me. She 
seemed well; she had a good colour, and her face 
was vivacious— more vivacious than it used to be 
a little too vivacious. She seemed to have become 
aware of the necessity of vivacity. When she 
laughed her eyes were sombre. 

She was dressed in a strange bright bluft— few 
women could have carried off that dazzling colour 
so well with coral red at her girdle and on her hat. 
She walked through the crowd with the beautiful un- 
consciousness that was part of her stage training. 
The stanng, the whispering, the craning of necfa, 
neither troubled nor pleased her. Alfred Mount, 
who was no child in the world, could not quite hide 
his pride at being seen with her. He, too, was 
gorgeously arrayed, a little too well-dressed for a 
man of his age. But I had to grant his youthful 
air, and good looks. 

I raised my hat, and was for keeping on, but she 
stopped short. 

"Arc you going to pass me by?" she cried with 
charming reproachfulness. 

I became as proud and conceited as Mount, thus 
to be singled out by her. Everybody stared at me. 



i68 



Thieves' Wit 



Mount's greeting was affable and chilly— like winter 
sunshine. I fell into step beside them. 

"Why haven't you been to see me?" she de- 
manded. 

"Why didn't you let me know you were in town?" 
I countered. 

"I didn't like to bother one so busy," she said. 

This to me from her I I walked on air. 

"How is business, Enderby?" Mount asked in a 
faintly sneering tone. 

"Poor," I said calmly. "Everybody appears to 
be behaving themselves." 

"Ah 1" said he. 

"What stories he could tell us if he would 1" my 
dear lady said admiringly. 

I smiled, as I suppose was expected of me. Little 
did she suspect that the only case I had was hers. 

We walked on chatting idly. What was said 
wouldn't be worth repeating, I expect, even if I could 
remember it. For me the mere sound of her voice 
was enough. 

There was no mention of the unhappy things 
that were past. We were all engaged in a tacit 
conspiracy to look forward. She told me of the new 
play that was proposed for her. She insisted that 
I must read it before the matter was finally de- 
termined. 

"You have such wonderful good sense I" she said. 

"And not at all affected by the actor's point of view." 

Mount's face looked a Jittle pinched at this warm 

praise, I wondered, had he been consulted about 



Thieves' Wit 



169 



the play. If he really honoured me with his jealousy 
he was foolish. I did not dream of aspiring to be 
anythmg more than her honest, faithful friend, 
iadie, I hoped, was my destined mate while Irma 
Hamerton was— why she was the sun over us all. 
^adie herself felt the same towards her as I did 
On the other hand I was jeal6us of Mount. I con- 
sidcred him presumptuous to aspire to our sun, as 
he plamly did. He wasn't half good enough— half ? 
—he wasn't worthy to tie her shoe. Besides, I was 
anxious about Roland. 

At Forty-second street they were turning West to 

the theatre district, and I bade them good-bye. 

Miss Hamerton covered me with confusion by ask- 

mg me to dine with her at her hotd the same night. 

Is It to be a party?" I asked. 

"No, indeed," she said. "Nobody but Alfred " 

.. J'^'l^''^'^^'^" '^^ "'='^- ^* J"^ "I'^ay been 
Mr. Mount." It set my teeth on edge. 

I accepted and left them. 

Dinner was served in her exquisite little drawing- 
room now loaded with sweet peas. For some 
reason that I have forgotten, the tiresome old Mrs. 
BIcecker was not in evidence— still I did not have a 
good time. I believe none of us had. "Alfred" still 
stuck in my crop. I reflected jealously, that if it had 
not been for the accidental meeting with me, Mount 
would have been alone with her. No doubt he was 
thinking of that, too. Everything from hors 
daeuvres to chartreuse was exquisite, but I had no 
zest in it. 



170 



Thieves' Wit 



It was "Alfred" this and "Alfred" that. Really 
it seemed as if my dear lady was rubbing it in. I 
suppose that was her delicate way of letting me 
know of her intentions. I fancied I perceived a 
certain apprehensiveness in her as to how I was go- 
ing to take it. Perhaps I flattered myself. Any- 
how it was enough to make the angels weep. She 
was not in the least in love with him, she could not 
have been, but after the way of dear, ignorant 
women she was trying to persuade herself that she 
was. Hence the "Alfreds." I thought of my pas- 
sionate young friend eating his heart out in a hall 
bedroom and my food choked me. 

Irma made some half laughing reference to the 
relief of being freed from Mrs. Bleecker's presence. 

"If she bothers you why don't you let her go?" 
said Mount. 

"Poor soul I What would she do?" said Irma. 
"She'd never get another situation, she's so disagree- 
able. Besides, I don't know that I could do any 
better." 

"Hardly worth while," said Mount. "You won't 
need a chaperon much longer." 

This was plain enough. It killed conversation 
for a moment or two. I was sure Irma sent an im- 
ploring glance in my direction, but I kept my eyes on 
my plate. Was it imploring me not to judge her, 
or imploring me to support her in what she meant 
to do, or imploring me to save her from it? How 
was a man to tell? I am sure she would have been 
glad if I had forced the question into the open, but 



Thieves' Wit 171 

I didn't know how to do it. True. I could have 
dropped a bomb in the middle of the table that would 
have shattered Mount's hopes, merely by telling 
what I knew of Roland. But my lips were sealed 
by my promise to him. 

I ^uT "'^'^a 'f")' f««t'ou» remark at which we 
laughed and fled from the disconcerting subject. 
But It seemed as if we could not avoid it for long. 
1 he most mnocent line of conversation had a wTr 
of landmg us squarely in front of it. As when Irnia 
said : 

"Have you heard that Beulah Maddox has started 
agam to get a divorce?" 

Miss Maddox had been the heavy woman in our 
company. 

"That is the eleventh time she has started pro- 
ceedmgs, isn't it?" said I. 

''Constant in inconstancy 1" murmured Mount. 
Miss Maddox's emotions are like soap-bubbles, " 
1 said. 

*'Do you think women are fickle?" Irma asked 
''ainful " ^°°^ '" ""^'^^ *'''" ''" something very 

I, thinking of poor Roland agonizing over his 
shorthand book until after midnight every nidit 
could not help but shrug slightly. ^"T^ "'Snt, 

"If they are it's the men's fault I" said Irma 
bitterly. "The men I have known would make 
constancy in women an indication of imbecility!" 

So there we were again 1 

"Funny, isn't it," drawled Mount, "how the sexes 



17* 



Thieves' Wit 



have no vtte for each other, yet love stories stUI 
seU." 

We laughed again. You had to admit Mount 
was a good man at a dinner table. 

I excused myself early on the plea of business, and 
went direct to Roland. Here I find I am a little 
ahead of my story, for I have not told you of his 
present circumstances. 

Roland had forsworn the stage. In this, as in 
everything else, he was an extremist, and he had cut 
himself off absolutely from his former life. People 
were always deceived by Roland's quietness. That 
composed face and indifferent manner concealed a 
capacity for white hot passion. As a matter of 
fact, I suppose, really passionate people are always 
like this, they couldn't live with themselves else, 
but we are blind to it. Roland had the spirit of a 
fanatic He was always torturing himself one way 
or another. You couldn't help being fond of him he 
was so noble — and so silly. 

Now, if you please, he had sold everything he 
possessed, and with the proceeds had pensioned off 
his old servant with an annuity. The mysterious 
legacy which had counted so against him, he had 
turned over to me with instructions to use it in 
bringing the thieves of Irma's pearls to justice. I 
couldn't very well refuse the money without con- 
fessing that Walter Dunsany was backing me, and 
no one in the world, not even Sadie, was to know of 
the relations between Mr. Dunsany and me. Be- 
sides, if I hadn't taken it he would have done some- 



Thieves' Wit 173 

thing more fooli.h with it. So I wa. holding it in 

Having divested himself literally of every cent 
Roland set about finding a job. Among his old 

wou^d have been glad to put him in the way of a 

t'l r'' ui °' r'" ''^ -"'d not apply to 
but he i™,f ^"' ''""^ ''""^^'"K for him my'elf. 
but he would not let me. He wanted to stand on 
h.s own bottom, he said. He set about answering 

any green lad from the country 

Roland with his romantic good looks could not 
b ms^.fica„t m any sphere however humble. He 

as h tioLh^V" ''" ^^"""^ ^°'^ *° "^« himself, 
as he thought, from starvation. He served as a 

hited hi, J*? T^ '° "y " '^^' »™= that he 
He fiirt '°f j' ".^ J '""y *'>''* he meant it. 
,n<r;„ • ^ ?''''^ " ^°^ " """ta" bookkeeper 
and nvo.e clerk with a coffee importer on Wate 

Tu\ V ''.'' hypnotised them into believing he 
could keep books I can't say. His salary was ten 

wS^'i'ant""'' "' ^ ''^'^ '^'''"■" '^> -hich you 
wiU grant was somethmg of a change for the late 

on Sf/.^ ''' ""'!:""''• "' '''^ - hall bedroom 
on East Seventeenth street, and ate outside. In th™ 
cvemngs he boned shorthand. His idea was to 

toTtldyl'r" '"^"^ '^^ '""°«^^P''"' -^ «-% 



174 



Thieves' Wit 



I found him at usual in the wretched little room, 
bending over the shorthand manual with a green 
siiade over his eyes. I was his only visitor in those 
days. He was thinner than of yore, not so harassed 
perhaps, but grimmer. There were deep hawklike 
lines from his proud nose to the comers of his bitter 
lips. It ma4- me savage to see him wasting his 
splendid yojrh in this fashion. 

"I've ju.- had dinner with Irma," I said 

"Yes?" he said calmly. 

You never could get any change out of Roland. 
Whatever he felt hi never dropped that hawk mask. 

"Mount was there." 

"Charming fellow. Mount." 

"Do you like him?" I asked amazed. 

"I neither like him nor dislike him," he said 
evenly. "He's a charming fellow, isn't he?" 

"Oh, that's the tag they put on him," I said im- 
patiently. 

He returned his attention to the shorthand book. 
This unnatural pretence of indifference exasperated 
me beyond bearing. 

"I believe they're preparing to get married," I 
said brutally. 

"We expected that, didn't we?" 

"Don't you caref" 

"Not overmuch." 

I knew he lied. 

"What do yoa want to put on this pretence with 
me for?" I demanded. "If you were really as caJ- 



Thieves' Wit 



175 

lous >nd unfeeling » you make out I wouldn't bother 
with you. 
He merely smiled. 

I ^ ;^"„*'««™ined to rouse him. "She doesn't 
love him," I said. 

"He's rich," he returned with a sneer. 

All the time I was trying to goad him I was get- 
tmg more worked up myself. "That's not it I" I 
answered angrily^ "Nobody knows it better than 
you. She s sound to the core. It', only your black 
temper that sees evil in her I" 

"Then how do you explain Mount?" he asked. 

That s her m.tmct," I said. "It would be any 

her^lfThT^' T'^t ^^''' ''^'"^ '° P"«'«de 
herself that she loves him to fill the horrible empti- 
ness of her heart since you failed her." 

two peJk..''"^" ^" "''^ ^''*^ *"" '^''"°''» •"''^'''K 
"Predsely. You have no right to allow her to 
go on thinkmg that you are guilty." 

h\llJT' K?" *°uf '"'° *^"* "««'"'" •« "!d with 
nis immovable stubbornness. 

crie" ^"^ '* " "tastrophc it wiU be your fault," I 

vo3'""'''n * ^'.r 1°^^ y°" °'*'="' y°"'^« «"»«<! your 
vocation, Ben," he said with his bitter smile. 

You re so romantic. Let's change the subject." 
thJ T'' - "l'^- "^''" K^"'' ^'"^ ^•""ntic, if 
ever did, because I have no hopes there myself. I 



176 



Thieves' Wit 



am thinking of her. You think of nothing but your^ 
•elf and your childish pride I" 

"Bravo, Ben I" he laid mockingly. 

"I can't stand aside and see her marry Mount. 
He's too old. There's an evil spot in him some 
place that I can't put my finger on." 

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" 

"I came to you to get you to let me off my promise 
to say nothing." 

That roused him as nothing else could. He 
sprang up, his face dark with passion. He actually 
threatened me witjh his fist. 

"You swore to me I" he cried. "By God 1 if you 
break your oath " 

"Keep your hair on," I said. "Am I not here 
asking you to let me off?" 

"I will not let you off," he said. "This is my 
affair, and mine only " 

"How about her?" I put in. 

He did not hear me. 

"You mean to be my friend, but friendship has no 
right to dictate another man's private affairs. I lead 
my life as I have to. You lead yours. No inter- 
ference. That's the only way we can be friends. 
The only way you can help me in this is by bringing 
the thieves to book." 

"But that's going to be a long chase," I groaned. 
"Meanwhile Mount is making hay. What's the use 
of publishing the truth if the mischief is already 
done?" 



Thieves' Wit 



177 



"If (he can bring henel/ to mtrry 



He shrugged. 
Mount 1" 

The self-iufficiency of a passionate young man I I 
could almost have wept at my helplessness against 
his obstmacy. "Be fair I" I cried. "It is our ex- 
penence, our knowledge of men that warns us against 
Mount. How can she tell?" 

"This does no good," he muttered. 

In his bitter wrongheadedness I believe that he 
almost wished that Irma might find out her mistake 
too late. 

But I would not give up, though I felt it was 
useless "What happiness can there be for any 
of us if Irma comes to grief?" I said, 

i>^^?^\ ^°l ^°^'' "''' ^'"P •*'" ''« '"«d painfully. 
What s the good of tearing open these old sores. 
You re off on the wrong tack. I've told you often 
enough. What if you did tell her I was innocent, 
and she turned back to me. That would be worse. 
I have nothmg for her. I don't believe in her. 
5>hes dead to me. You can't revive that sort of 
thing." 

"Very well, then," I said. "It would be more 
merciful never to tell her that you are innocent." 

That touched him. "Oh-^-|" he said sharply 
taken aback. "A man doesn't like to dwell under 
that sort of accusation I He quickly recovered him- 
self. Just as you think best," he said hardily. 

But let him make believe all he liked, the one 
little g impse had convinced me that he was human 
alter all. 



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(*NSI gnd ISO TIST CHAKT No. 2) 




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^^PPLIED IN/MGE Inc 

I6M EoM Mdn Slra«t 

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i8 

IT was on the way home from Roland's room in 
the dark and silent side streets that I first dis- 
covered I was being trailed. Since receiving Sadie's 
report of Milboume's visit to her office I had ex- 
pected this. It troubled me little. My position as 
commander-in-chief kept me behind the lines, and 
they would not Icam much by following me. My 
mail I got from the post-office myself, and our tele- 
phone conversations as a rule would not have con- 
veyed anything to an outsider, if he did succeed in 
intercepting them. At the same time it was annoy- 
ing to know oneself watched. I wondered if there 
was any advantage to be gained from a counter 
stroke. Since they had succeeded in bringing me 
into the open, I had a mind to take an open shot at 
them. I began to lay my plans forthwith. 

My shadow picked me up as I issued from my 
house next morning. He waited outside the restau- 
rant where I had my breakfast and accompanied me 
to the office. Looking out of my office window I 
could actually see him sitting on a bench in Bryant 
Park (q)posite. He was a slender young man with 
an unwholesome complexion and mean, sharp eyes, 
a "sleirth" of the cheapest type. I wondered some- 
what since they thought me worth following, that 
they had not chosen a better instrument than that. 
178 



Thieves' Wit 



179 



He had a good long wait, for I sent out for sand- 
wiches at lunch time. At two o'clock he was relieved 
by a man, considerably beefier but not a bit more 
intelligent-looking. It apparently had not occurred 
them " *° investigate if I was watching 

I determined to reach back at my enemies through 
their own spy. Having telephoned Sadie to have 
two good men meet me at the New Amsterdam Hotel 
at five-thirty, I saUied forth. My shadow resumed 
hjs attendance at my heels in the most obvious way. 
What kind of a fool did he think I wasi It was 
child s play to shake him off. I merely went through 
the drug-store m the Times Building and downstairs 
to the subway station. I crossed under the tracks, 
mixed m the crowd on the up-town platform, and 
ascended to the street again. I saw my gum-shoe 
artist' no more. 

I met the two men Sadie sent me, gave them their 
instructions and went home. My only fear now was 
tiiat I might not be able to find my traUer again. 
IJut bye and bye to my satisfaction I saw the beefy 
one loafing across the street. I went out and dined 
weU, while he looked through the restaurant window. 
1 took m a show, letting him cool his heels outside 
/ M i7 ^1^ afterwards I treated myself to one 
of old Adam s rabbits and a mug of ale. It was 
near midnight when I was through with that and the 
time was npe for my little comedy. I wended mv 
way towards the office with gumshoes hard on my 
,trail. ' 



i8o 



Thieves' Wit 



The little building where I have my office is given 
over entirely to business, and is closed for the night 
at ten o'clock. Like the other tenants, I am pro- 
vided with a latchkey, in case I have to get in after 
hours. I am often there late, but I have never met 
any of the other tenants at night. 

It all went through as on roller bearings. I 
walked down Fortieth street softly whistling 
"Mighty Lak' a Rose," which was my signal to the 
two men. They were posted in the shadow of the 
last doorway I had to pass before turning into my 
own. The block ii a quiet one at that hour. 

I let myself into my building and w;\ited just inside 
ithe door. When gum-shoes came along all unsus- 
picious, my two friends jumped him, and holding his 
mouth, hustled him in after me, before he well knew 
what had struck him. We improvised a gag out of 
a handkerchief, and carried him up-stairt to my 
office. The fellow did not even kick. 

We dumped him in a chair and turned on the 
lights. Then we stood off, and the three of us 
burst out laughing simultaneously. You never saw 
a more comical sight than the expression of that poor 
bloodhound who suddenly found himself treed by 
his quarry I I now had no further use for the two 
men, so I tipped them and they left us. I locked 
the door after them and put the key in my pocket. 
I told my prisoner he might unfasten his gag, and I 
sat down at my desk facing him. On the desk I 
prominently displayed a wicked-looking automatic. 



Thieves' Wit 



i8i 



\ 



\ 



I had no idea of using it, but it made a potent argu- 
n^ent. 

Having laughed at the man I felt almost friendly 
towards him. I offered him a cigar. 

He ignored it, and I put it away. "What do you 
mean by this outrage I" he demanded. 

I laughed afresh. "Come off. Jack I" I said. 
"You must think I'm a downy chick." 

At that he climbed down, and asked for the cigar 
quite humbly. "What do you want of me?" he 
ii'.uttered. 

"Just a little heart to heart talk," I said grinning. 

"You can't make me talk," he growled. 

I played with the revolver. "There's not a soul 
in the building but ourselves," I said offhand. 

The janitor lived on the top floor, 1 1 supposed 
he didn't know that. 

.. ^! 7'^*'*' '■'^''* ^°'^' ^^ ^^^ no nerve at all. 
"I ain't got nothin' against you personally," he 
whined. "I only got my living to make the same as 
yourself." 

"Who hired you to trail me?" I asked. 

"I don't know what guy's got it in for you," he 
stammered. "Honest, I only got my orders from 
the office." 

"Wl ^ffice?" 

"If y-j queer me there I'll lose my job. I'm a 
married man with two children." 

"I'll tell them I put a gun to your head." 
• Aw, let me gp. J ^iu't j;Qt.iu>thin' against you." 



I82 



Thieves' Wit 



I picked up the gun. "Come across I Who hired 
you." 

"The Detective Agency," he stuttered. 

He named one of the largest Agencies in town. 
Of course, I didn't know but what h« was lying, but 
I meant to find out before I let him go. I turned 
a threatening scowl on him, and let my hand stray 
towards the gun again. 
"I want the truth," I said. 
He watched my hand like one hypnotised. Little 
drops of sweat broke out on his forehead. "For 
God's sake. Mister;—!" he chattered. "For God's 
sake—! I'm telling you the truth. I'm only a 
poor operative. I don't know who wants to iret 
you!" * 

"You'll have to prove it," I said. 

"CaU up the Agency," he stuttered. "They're 
open aU night. My name is Atterbury. I'm num- 
ber 68." 

The instrument was at my hand. I got the num- 
ber, and was presently answered by a brash young 
voice demanding to know what I wanted. 

"This is B. Endcrby," I said, "of number — West 
40th Street. Have you got an operative working 
for you named Atterbury, number 68 on your 
books?" 

"I don't know you," returned the voice. "We 
don't give any information over the phone. Call 
around and let us look you over." He hung up. 

This littie passage made me downright hot, and 



Thieves' Wit 



183 



I suppose it showed in my face when I looked at the 
detective again. 

'■Wh-what's the matter?" he stammered. 
They refuse to identify you." 

He became still paler and clammier if that were 
possible. "Let me^let me call them," he stam- 
mered. 

I shoved the instrument towards him and waited. 
When he got his number he feU all over himself 
trymg to explain. "Who i, this. Dixon?_Oh. 
Jones. Joncs-for God's sake I-this is Atterbury. 
Square me can't you ? This guy Enderby-I me7n 
Mr. Lnderby s got me sewed up in his office. He's 
got me covered-for God's sake, square me I Or 
Im a goner I" 

He shoved the instrument towards me. I kept 

t1^^. r\r "IL.^"' '"^"'^'y I ^" 'taking 
w th laughter. "This is Enderby again," I said 

X?aVo~""- "^°^ ^°" '•'''^ ^^ "-*-• 
oughly scared. "I've got your name and number. 

to ri hts "* *'''"" *° ""'' """" ^^'""^ 8°* y°" *^"«* 

the??""'" ^ "'** ^"*'''"^- ""^°" '*''"*'^ h™. 

hvT*"'!''/" ? '^"^^'^ to ^°^" I »«id. "Good- 
bye. And this time I did the hanging up. 

1 got up and unlocked the door. "Get I" I said 



i84 



Thieves' Wit 



to Mr. Atterbury. "If you take my advice, old man, 
you'll go into some other line." 
He made grand time on the stairs. 

The head of the Detective Agency was 

Dongan, a well-known and able man, once the head 
of the New York Detective Bureau. He belonged 
to a school of investigation different from mine, but 
I respected his ability and I knew him to be above 
reproach. I was sure in this situation I could not 
do better than go direct to him. I called next morn- 
ing. 

"So you're in the same line?" he said looking at 
my card. 

"That accounts for my business with you," I re- 
plied. 

"What can I do for you?" 

"Haven't your people told you what happened in 
my office last night?" 

"No. Explain yourself." 

"We are in the same line. Hunting down crooks. 
The supposition is that we handle only dean busi- 
ness." 

"What are you getting at?" he demanded scowl- 
ing. 

"I came to ask you to explain why you're track- 
ing me in the legitimate pursuit of my busines . 
You will agree, I think, that it looks fishy." 

"I don't know anything about it," he said crossly. 
"I don't know you." 

'J will wait while you enquire," J said mildly. 



Thieves' Wit 



185 



He went into his outer ofBce. In about five min- 
utM he returned bringing a younger man. 

17 T!"'„ T" '""^ '° '"'^' *^ 8°ods on ui. 
Enderby, he said ruefully. "It was a small job 
and I was not consulted." 

"Our client never told us you were a detective," 
said the other man. 

"I wiU make the excuses," said his employer 

i7\ ^ ."T^* ^^^ '"»" ^^° "B>8««J "» to trail 
Mr. Enderby." 

"Gave his name as Lawlor. Fleshy man about 
forty-five years old. Red face, big black or dark 
brown moustache. Wears a cutaway coat and silk 
hat, very active in his movements." 

"Has unusually large feet," I added, "which he 
slaps down in a peculiar way when he walks." 

..J'^1''^' ^^^" "''^ **** y°""8 ">»". surprised. 
You know him?" 

.. JJ^°* 1°. ""^^ " ^ '^°"''' ''"^^ ^°'" I »a'd dryly. 
What address did he give you?" 

"We haven't got his address?" 
"Where were your reports to be sent?" 
The young man consulted a card. "Box 220. 
Station W, New York." 

JWell, that's something," I said, and rose. 
When you report to him please don't mention that 
1 ve been in." 

"There will be no more reports," said Dongan 
shortly. "We'll return his money." 

"If you want to make up to me for the trouble 
you ve put me to, make him one more report," I 



i86 



Thieves' Wit 



•uggesited. "Simply tell him that upon learning that 
I wai a detective, Mr. Dongan directed that the 
buaineit be refused." 
"I will do that," Dongan said. 
"When would you ordinarily report to him?" I 
asked. 

"This morning," the young man replied I 
guessed from his foolish expression that a lurid ac- 
count of the last night's proceedings had already 
been written. 

"Goodl" I said. "WiU you please send it right 
off? I want to watch the letter box." 
Dongan agreed. 

I hastened to Oscar Nilson's shop. An hour or 
so later I issued from under his hands, as perfect 
a specimen of the snuffy old man, the shabby genteel, 
as you could have found in any public reading-room 
from Chatham Square to Cooper Union. Oscar is 
a wonder. 

By noon I was at Station W, which is away up- 
town on Columbus avenue. Peeping through the 
glass front of Box 229 I saw that the letter from 
Dongan had not yet arrived, at least the box was 
empty. A little while later I had the satisfaction of 

seeing the letter with the Detective Agency 

imprint on the corner shoot into the box. 

For a weary two hours thereafter I made believe 
to amuse myself with the store windows of the block, 
up and down, both sides. Since I was the very pic- 
ture of a harmless old loafer, my movements at- 
tracted no notice. 



Thieves' Wit 



187 






At last he hove in vie* on foot. There wai n„ 
danger of overlooking thi. „,,„ in . c" J" 1 

m r"''' '^^ !*'°** "'"y- "« "">« dip- 
ping down the street with hi. vast cutaway spread 

With a shape and peculiarities so marked a crook 

Tzz'',i '"""^ ''''" '° ""p out :;'thc t"?;: 

wasft l?oV»r' "1 "^r" ' «°°** °'«- There 
7Zf!.u " '"°'' '" '••' appearance. His fat. 
rosy fact bore an expression of good will to aU men 

len^'-'T^"""."' '^' P°"-°ffi« ^^ th^ open 
letter m hu, hand, and looking not . ie so go^. 

natured. He started North again. stiU on fo^. 
Walking at that rate it was impossible for an a^ 
parently decrepit old man to keep up his characteV 
so I was presently obliged to get on a car. It wa^ 

w" r " 7ri ^ '°"i** ''"P " * °f ''™ for ^«veral 
blocks Indeed, with the stops, we travelled very 

1 got off and let him overtake me. 
He turned West on One Hundredth street and 

long row. When I came abreast of the stoop t „w 
fr/l u''""''"^"' '''"'''"K •»" f" fingers in one of 
fjai^ron"- ^"^^^^^^PO'iti-oftheb^x 

to ^Z?i^ P««ntly, I saw that the box belonged 

Winers T; '*\^' """" "P°"'» ^" R- 
Wmters. I do not, however, mean to tux your brain 

with anymore of Fatty's innumerable ali, Js. From 



i88 



Thieves' Wit 



one of the report* I learned that hit nickname was 
"Jumbo." Hereafter I thaU call him that. 

I loafed up and down the street debating my next 
move. It is a crowded street and I was not con- 
spicuous. Many an old dodderer walks up and 
down watching the children's games with a vague 
glance. I was very keen to have a look at the inside 
of Apartment 14. Thinking of Irma and Roland 
and the necessity of accomplishing something quickly, 
I am afraid I was not content to act with the caution 
that Mr. Dunsany and I had agreed was necessary. 
The most obvious suggestion was to send Jumbo a 
fake telegram, calling him out. But in that case, 
when he discovered the sell he would know that I 
was on to him. I wanted to be sure of a case against 
him first. 

While I was still pondering the matter, Jumbo 
issued forth again accompanied this time by a woman 
of his own age and type who might have been his 
wife. From the style of her dress I judged that 
they were off on an expedition, and my heart beat 
high. I made sure that they were really leaving thw 
neighbourhood, by seeing them on an Amsterdam 
avenue car bound down-town. 
^ Returning, I rang the bell in the vestibule sevi ral 
times to make sure there was no one else at home. 
The latch never clicked. I took advantage of some 
one's coming out to enter, and climbed the stairs 
until I came to the door marked 14. I knocked 
without receiving any answer. The doors of these 
flats are childishly easy to open unless the tenant 



Thieves' Wit 



189 



put* on a special lock. In thit case it had not been 
done. A calling card properly manipulated did the 
trick. I found myielf iniide. 

I shall not go into a lengthy description of the 
place because there was nothing to describe. It was 
an ordinary flat of four small rooms, and from the 
look of It might have been outfitted complete by an 
instalhnent house. Th. -. was nothing to suggest 
the taste of the owners, at least not until you came 
to the kitchfn. Here there was an immense ice 
chest crammed with the choicest and most expensive 
eatables and drinkables. That w » where their 
hearts lay I There was also a gi .t store of fine 
liquors and cigars. 

One bit of evidence rewarded my search, and >nly 
one. There were no letters, no papers, not a if ip 
of wnting of any kind, except two lines on a piece of 
paper which I found under the blotting-pad of the 
cheap little desk by the sitting-room window. It 
had evidently slipped under and had been forgotten. 
A clever crook, of course, is no cleverer than an 
honest man. He is sure to make a little slip some- 
where. In the two lines of writing I once more be- 
held the famous cryptogram. I pocketed it in high 
satisfaction. 

I had got as far in my search as the imitation 
Japanese vases on the mantel-piece. I was peeping 
inside one of them when I heard a slight sound 
behind me. I turned around and beheld Jumbo 
sweUmg and purpling with silent rage in the door- 
way. I confess I was a good deal shaken by the ap- 



190 



Thieves' Wit 



pariticn, though I managed to put down the vase 
with a good appearance of composure. He had 
stolen in as noiselessly as a cat. No matter how 
clear one's conscience may be, one is taken at a dis- 
advantage discovered in the posture of a burglar. 

For a while we looked at each other in silence. I 
cautiously reassured myself that my gun was safe in 
my pocket. I saw that Jumbo was making a tre- 
mendous effort to hold himself in, and I realised 
that he had more to fear from a showdown than I 
had. I began to breathe more easily. I had taken 
off my hat for coolness, and the wig was sewn inside 
the band. He obviously knew me. Perhaps it was 
as well for me. If he had supposed me an ordinary 
sneak thief he might have struck me down from be- 
hind with a blow of that mighty fist. 

He began to swear at me thickly and softly. I 
remember wondering if he were going to have an 
apoplectic seizure, and hoping he wouldn't because 
it would spoil my case. 

"I have you covered from my pocket," I warned 
him, in case his feelings got the better of his judg- 
ment. 

"Yah I I'm not going to touch you I" he snarled. 
"I don't have to." 

He got his rage under partial control. "Go ahead 
and finish looking," he said with a grim sort of hu- 
mour. 

"I have finished," I said. 

"Well, what did you find?" 

"Nothing." 



Thieves' Wit 191 

"You're dead right you didn't find nothing," he 
triumphantly retorted, "because there ain't nothing 
to find I I'm straight, I ami I don't fear nobody. 
I don t know what you think you're after, but I'll 
tell you this, I'm sick of this spying business I I 
J*™ yo" to drop it, or I'll crush you as I would a 
fly I Who are you, you— amateur I I know all 
about you. You ain't got nothin' behind you. 
You re a four-flusher, a cheap skate I Keep away 
from me or I'll make you sorry you set up to be a 
sleuth!" 

AU this had quite the opposite effect of what was 
intended. As soon as Jumbo began to brag and 
blow, something told me he was not in the least to 
be feared. However, for my own purposes, I as- 
sumed an air of confusion, and looked longingly 
toward the door behind him. He was not at aU 
anxious to detain me. He circled away from the 
door, keeping his front carefully turned towards me. 
I m turn backed out of the door, and he slammed 
It shut 

As soon as I got home I made haste to translate 
my find. It proved to me even more important than 
1 had hoped, 

"Received of Jumbo six thousand cash, three thou- 
sand stock as my share of the blue pearis, 

"Evan." 

I aUowed myself a little feeling of triumph. You 
will remember I had learned that Kenton MU- 



192 



Thieves' Wit 



bourne's name was Evan Whittlesey. As for the 
mention of blue pearls, there were no others but 
Irma's in the world. This amounted to real prima 
facie evidence then, the first bit I had secured. 

Would they find out that it was in my possession? 
It must have been temporarily mislaid, they were 
in all other things so careful. After my visit per- 
haps Jumbo would begin to think back. I was not 
left long in doubt as to the matter. They struck 
»t me with a boldness and skill I was little prepared 
for. 



19 

Report of J. M. #9 

T June 25/A. 

O-DAY as I came out of the work-people'» en- 
trance to Dunsany's at noon Jumbo passed by 
on the sidewalk. He tipped me a scarcely percep- 
tible wink, and kept on, as I was with my fellow- 
workmen. I suppose that he wished to catch me 
in the act, so to speak. In other words he wants to 
have it understood between us that he knows I work 
there. It is a step towards more confidential com- 
munications. 

We met as usual to-night at the Turtle Bay Cafe, 
but something had happened in the meantime, be- 
cause Jumbo was glum and sour. I made believe 
not to notice it. After he had a drink or two he 
volunteered the reason. 

"A fellow broke into my rooms to-day, a sneak 
thief," he said. 

''No I What did you do to him ?" said I. 

"Oh, I half killed him and let hun go. He didn't 
get anything." 

This was obviously no explanation of his wor- 
ried air. I continued to question him about the 
affair with a friend's natural curiosity, but he sud- 
denly became suspicious, so I let it drop. I do 
not know if this has anything to do with your 
'93 



194 



Thieves' Wit 



other activities, but I g^ve it for what it's worth. 

Later in the evening when Jumbo's good-humour 
was somewhat restored, he referred to our noon 
meeting in a facetious way. 

"Thought you said you were out of a job," he 
said: 

I made believe to be somewhat confused. "Ahh, 
I wasn't going ij tell everything I knew to a 
stranger," I said. 

He made haste to commend me. He affected a 
certain admiration of my astuteness. "You're a 
deep one, English I I bet you could teach me a trick 
or two I" 

Have I mentioned that "English" is becoming my 
nionaker? 

By this time it is thoroughly understood between 
Jumbo and I that we are both "good sports," i. e., 
dependably crooked. It saves a lot of bluffing on 
both sides. 

Jumbo adced me what my job was at Dunsany's. 
I explained how I handled all the stuff that was sent 
in to be reset, my particular job being to remove the 
jewels from their old settings before handing them 
on to the expert craftsmen. 

"What a chance I" said Jumbo wistfully. 'But I 
suppose they have you watched." 

"Oh, yes," I said, and I went on to explain all 
the f 'ecautions against theft and loss, "but, of 
course — i — " Here I made believe to be overtaken 
by caution. 



Thieves' Wit 



195 



Jumbo's little eyes glistened. "Of course what?" 
he demanded. 

I tried to turn the subject which only increased his 
eagerness. He kept after me. 

"If a man knew the trick of making paste dia- 
monds," I suggested, "and could substitute one oc- 
casionally ! Of course he'd have to make them 

himself. It wouldn't be safe to buy them." 

Jumbo whistled softly. "Can you make them?" 
he asked. 

I confessed that I could. 

"But wouldn't the fellows get on to you, I mean 
the experts you hand the jewels on to?" 

As I have already cold you. Jumbo knows next to 
nothmg about diamonds, so I felt safe enough m 
my romancing. "Not likely," I said. "The paste 
jewels are first rate imitations at first. It's only 
after a while that they lose their lustre. Of course 
if I was found out, I'd pass the buck to the fellow 
who gave them to me. After the new work is re- 
turned to the customer there's no danger until the 
work has to be cleaned or repaired." 

"How could a feUow keep all the different sizes 
..nd cuttings handy in his pocket?" Jumbo asked. 

"In his pocket I" I said scornfully. "He'd be 
•potted the first day! You make the job last over 
mght, see ? Weigh, measure and test the stone you 
want, and bring the phony stone to match it next 
monung." 

Jumbo was breathing hard in his excitement. I 
suppose he saw an endless vista of profits, the risk 



196 



Thieves' Wit 



all mine. "But ain't the stones all cut different?", 
he asked. 

"Say, you want to know as much as I do," I said 
sarcastically. 

He fawned on me. "You're dead right, 'boe. 
That'f your private affair." 

After we had another drink or two I madr be- 
lieve to drop my guard completely. I left out the 
ifs and the coulds and admitted that my game at 
Dunsany's was as I had described it. To prove it 
I brought out a couple of beautiful unset diamonds, 
which completed the Conquest of Jumbo. 

"It's a cinch I a cinch I" he cried. "A couple of 
good men could make fifty thousand a year easy and 
safe. Fifty thousand after the commission was 
taken out." 

"What commission?" I demanded. 

"Thirty-three and a third per cent to them that 
disposes of the stones," said Jumbo evasively. 

I thought it wiser not to question Jumbo any far- 
ther in that direction at present. 

Jumbo went on enthusiastically. "You and me'll 
be pardners I This is our little private graft. We 
won't let anybody else in, see? You on the inside, 
me out, we were made for each other 1" 

The coyer I made out to be, the more friendly 
was Jumbo. 

Finally, coming down to practical matters, he 
asked me what the stones were w'>rth. I told him 
the market value. 

"Of course I can't get anything like near that," 



Thieves* Wit 



197 



I'll 



he said. "But I'll make the best dicker I can 
let you know before I doie with them." 

After tome more persuasion I finally handed over 
the stones. I knew he wouldn't play me false as 
long as he thought there were larger gains in pros- 
pect. 

We haggled for an hour over the division of the 
profits. I passionately refused to consider fifty- 
fifty, since the work and the risk were all mine. 
Half a dozen times the budding partnership seemed 
about to end. We finally agreed on sixty and forty. 
By holding out as I did, I believe I have lulled Jum- 
bo's suspicions forever. 

The compact was cemented with a drink. 
We talked on about diamonds, and I saw a new 
idea form and grow in Jumbo's little swimming eyes. 
Studying me speculatively, he put me throu^ a 
lengthy cross-examination concerning my knowledge 
of precious stones. 

"You're one of these here experts yourself, ain't 
you?" he said at last. 

I modestly accepted the designation. 
"What did you leave England for?" he asked sud- 
denly. 

"What's past is past," I said scowling. 

"Sure," he said hastily. "I don't want to pry into 
your affairs." 

He changed the subject, but I could see him still 
chewing over the same idea, whatever it was. 

We were sitting as usual at one of the little tables 
down the side of the bar-room. Jumbo excused 



198 



Thieves' Wit 



hinuelf for • few minutet. When he came back he 
talked about one thing and another, but it was mani- 
festly to gain time. He glanced at the door from 
time to time. I wondered what was saving for me. 

At about ten o'clock, a man came into the place 
alone, and went to the bar without, apparently, 
looking at ui. 

"Why there's Foxy!" cried Jumbo in great sur- 
prise. 

He hailed his friend, and had him join us at our 
table. They overdid the casual meeting a little. I 
began to suspect that Jumbo had telephoned this man 
to come and join us, and I waited with no little 
curiosity to see what would come of it. 

The newcomer was a man of Jumbo's age, but 
looking much younger because he was slender and 
well built. He was one of the plainest men I have 
ever seen but not in the sense of being repulsive, 
just plain. He was a blonde with ashy, colourless 
hair, and features of the "hatchet" type, that is to 
say sharp nose, narrow, retreating forehead, with 
the hair beginning some distance back. "Foxy" 
didn't seem to fit him very well, because he looked 
heavy-witted, stupid, but perhaps he can be sharp 
enough when he wants. He had a dull, verbose 
st]^e of talk, and a conceited air like a third-rate 
actor. 

Jumbo informed me with a scarcely concealed leer 
that Foxy was a "good fellow," in other words a 
crook like ourselves. Verily, words come to strangq 
passes I 



Thieves* Wit 



199 



Preiently we got to talking about diamonds again, 
and Jumbo in hit cliaracter of the broker, exhibited 
the two he had just obtained from me. He did not, 
however, in my hearing »ay where he had got them. 
A look at me was a sufficient hint to say nothing 
about our compact. Presently I began to realise 
that Foxy in his heavier way was putting me through 
a sharper examination than Jumbo's. My opinion 
of hatchet-face's cleverness went up several points. 

This man exhibited a considerable theoretical 
knowledge of diamonds a i of one who might have 
read up on the subject. For instance he knew the 
characteristics, the weight and the ownership of the 
world-famous stones. He had, however, nothing of 
the eye-to-eye knowledge of the experienced jeweller. 

I apparently passed his examination satisfactorily. 
He glanced at Jumbo in a meaning way, and the lat- 
ter said : 

"Look ahere, English, you ought to be able to 
make a good thing on the side by appraising dia- 
monds." 

My heart jumped at the possibilities this opened 
up. Was I about to land the job of diamond expert 
to the gang? "The profession's overcrowded," I 
said carelessly. 

"I could put you in the way of a job occasion- 
ally," said Jumbo. "Some fellows Foxy and me 
knows would be glad to pay for a little advice about 
buying and selling stones." 

I began to hope that the end of our labours might 
be in sight. The next question dashed me a little.- 



aoo 



Thieves' Wit 



"Have you ever heard of Mn. ?*' 

Foxy atked.* 

Of course I had, she is one of my best customers. 
I shook my head. 

He gave me some details of her history which 
would hav astonished Cora — i — could she have 
heard them. "She has a fine string of sparklers," 
he remarked in conclusion. 

"Has she?" I said innocently. I had sold them 
to her. 

"She's at Newport now," said Foxy casually. 

"Hell I what's the'use of beating round the bush I" 
said Jumbo in his hearty way. "Ain't we all friends 
together? It's worth a nice little sum to you, Eng- 
lish, if you can find out and report if it's the genu- 
ine stones that she wears around town up there." 

"But I can't leave my job," I objected. 

"Sure, he can't leave his job," said Jumbo at once. 

"He can go up on Saturday night's boat, and come 
back Sunday, can't he?" said Foxy. 

The matter was so arranged. I suppose I am in 

for it next Saturday. Will you see that Mrs. 

is warned in some manner? 

In the meantime I am to be taken to see the 
"friends" that buy and sell diamonds. Here's hop- 
ing that this may prove to be the grand headquar- 
ters of the gang. 

When we left the place. Jumbo excusing himself, 
pulled Foxy aside, and held a brief, whispered con- 

*He umed one of the moM prominent lodety women in New 
York^B. E. 



Thieves' Wit 201 

•ultitJon with him, which boded iU for lomebody 
Their facet were distorted with anger. Foxy took 
the weit-buuiid croti-town car, and we walked over 
to the lubway. 

Jumbo anxioui, I .uppote, to make me feel that 
I had not been left out of anything, Mid : "Me and 
Frank had a little trouble to^ay. There', a buU 
poking his note into our private buiineu." 

Hoping to hear more, I heartily joined with him 

in roniigning the whole race of "buU." to perdition. 

Oh, this 1. only an amateurJike," .aid Jumbo. 

He .running a little private graft of hi. own. He 

ain t dangerous. Me and Foxy', got it fixed to 

trim hun nicely." 

Thi. was all I could get. I mention it, thinking 
that It may be of interest to you. 

I suppose if either of my worthy friends ever sus- 
pected that I was not a "good feUow," my life would 
not be worth a jacknitraw. The same menace lurks 
Dehmd Jumbo . swimming pig-eyes, and Foxy's dull 
ones. But I am enjoying the spice of danger. The 
only thuig that irks me are the tiresome hours at 
my work bench in Dunsany's. I'll be glad when ^he 
game becomes livelier. This is life I 

J. M. 

Report of A. N. 

V »,fii. Juneisth. 

K. Milboume came out of his boarding-house at 
9:20 to-night. Walked East to Seventh avenue, 
Worth on Seventh to Fifty-eighth street, and East 



aoa 



Thieves* Wit 



to • retort near Third Avenue called "Under the 
Greenwood Tree." This it a taloon and rettaurant 
with a large open air garden in the rear where a 
band playt. 

I waited outiide upwarda of an hour, llien I 
went in to tee if I had my man lafe. I found there 
wat < back entrance from the garden out to Fifty- 
ninth street, and he wai gone. I'm lorry, but "ac- 
cidentt will happen I" I returned to the boarding- 
houte. Milboume came home at 1 1 :35, and judg- 
ing from the light in hit room, went directly to bed. 



A.N. 



ir.**""^ "^"^ ""'•"*' "« •" the first mail, I 
called up Sadie for the purpce of teUing her to 
have the operative A. N. tr.„,ferred to .ome other 
u V>i-.u *^ ol'viously outlived his usefulnew 
where Mdhoume was concerned. This was the day 
allowing my encounter with Jumbo in his flat 
Keenan answered the phone. He said Sadie had 
just gone out after reading her mail. She had told 
him she didn t know how long she would be. We 
did not take Keenan venr far into our confident 
He knew he was not clever, poor fellow, and -liU 
not mind his exclusion. 

His word made me vaguely uneasy, for I knew of 
nothing to take Sadie out thai morning, and Till 
very scrupulous about letting me know before em- 
barking on anything new. However, there was 
nothing to do until I heard from her, 

I plunged into the work awaiting me. That was 
considerable. I am only giving you an occasional^" 
port or part of a report which help, on the story a 

obliged to follow that never returned us anyd^ini 
P^rtTli^etast.^''""""-^"^-^^-^-^^ 

At noon I caUed the other office again. Sadie had 
ao3 



204 



Thieves* Wit 



not come !n, said Keenan, nor had she sent any word. 
I was downright anxious by this time. Sadie must 
know that I would call her up, I told myself. Surely 
she would never stay away so long without sending 
in word, unless she were prevented. I called up 
her sister with whom she lived. They had not 
heard from her there since she had left as usual that 
morning. 

I spent a horrible afternoon, condemned to in- 
action, while my brain busied itself suggesting all the 
dreadful things that might have happened. Curi- 
ously enough I thought only of the ordinary acci- 
dents of the strfcets. The truth never occurred 
to me. 

The blow descended about half-past four. Ter- 
rible as it was it was like relief to hear anything. It 
came in the form of a special delivery letter, mailed 
as in irony from Station W. Within were two lines 
more of that damned cryptogram, thus: 

SP JAH FUXLJG QCXQ WYE DFB&U OWK- 
MZM&YW SY EUS UYHJL FVDH QMWZCDBK 
QBC OYFG YB UOWX. 

Meaning: 

"If you return what you stole yesterday in the 
first mail to-morrow all will be well." 

On the back of the paper was written another 
message : 

"They have got me, Ben. Save me I" 

This went to my breast like a knife. It was un- 
questionably Sadie's handwriting. The wild words 



Thieves' Wit 205 

were so unlike my clever self<ontained girl it broke 
me aU up. For a while I could not think, could not 
plan. I could only reproach myself for having put 
one so dear to me in danger. 

Fortunately for humans, old habits of work reas- 
sert themselves automatically. My brain screwed 
Itself down upon the hardest problem of my ca- 

.T/i; 7.^" T ^'"^ *''«''*"* "»« '" flying up 
to the flat on One Hundredth street. There would 

be no one there. Neither could I call on the police 
tor aid without precipitating the catastrophe. If 
Sadie was to be saved it must be by unaided wits. 

I thought of Mr. Dunsany with hope and grati- 
tude. In him I had a line on the gang they did not 

^^r't'T.'?- .[^""""'^^^'^^y "lied up Dunsany's 
and asked if I might speak to Mattingly in the jewel- 
setting department. It was a risky thing to do, but 
I had no choice. Knowing how the gang watched 
Dunsany s it would have been suicidal for me to have 
gone there to meet him. 

I finally heard his voice at the other end of the 
wi«.^ "This is Enderby." I said. "Do you gel 

"Yes," he said, "what is it?" 

Jt^U ^°J'''" '" "''"'^ *^ possibility of a curious 
switchboard operator m Dunsany's listening on the 

night? I asked in ordinary tones. 
"Yes," he said, "same as usual." 

J'/^'^'k^'^r' '*'''" P'^y^*^ ** *"* °n me," I 
»a«a. I hey have copped my girl." 



206 



Thieves' Wit 



"Not Sadie I" he said aghast. 

"Yes," I said. "It's a deuce of a note, isn't it?" 

He took the hint, and his voice steadied. "What 
do you want me to do?" 

"Find out if you can without giving yourself away 
where they have put her." 

"I'll try. Where can I meet you?" 

"We can't meet. But watch out for my friend 
Joe the taxi-driver. He stands outside your joint 
up on Lexington avenue. The number of his li- 
cence is 11018. It's painted on the sidelamps." 

"I get you," said Mr. Dunsany. 

I cannot give a very clear account of the next 
hour or two. It was like a nightmare. I knew a 
young fellow that drove a taxi which he hired from 
a big garage by the day. I was depending on him 
to help me out. I had often employed him. I 
searched him out, taking suitable precautions against 
being trailed. He agreed to hire me his cab for 
the night and I went to his room to change clothes 
with him. The visored cap in itself was a pretty 
good disguise. I had made an engagement by tele- 
phone with my good friend Oscar Nilson, and he 
fixed me up so my own mother wouldn't have known 
me. 

In my anxious eagerness I arrived at the Turtle 
Bay Cafe long before the hour. None of the men 
I was looking for had arrived, and I was compelled 
to drive around the streets for another half hour 
or more. I turned down the little flag on the meter. 



Thieves* Wit 



207 



to avoid taking any business. Once more I had a 
drink at the bar without seeing any of my men. The 
third time I returned I caught a glimpse of Mr. Dun- 
sany's face at one of the tables, and I waited out- 
side as if for a fare who had gone in for a drink. 

After a while I could stand it no longer. My tor- 
turing curiosity drove me inside. I went to the bar 
taking care not to look towards the alcove where 
the thr<-c! sat. I found I could see them in the mir- 
ror witiiout turning my head. Mr. Dunsany, or 
"English," as I shall call him, and "Foxy" each pre- 
sented a side view, while Jumbo, seated farthest 
within the alcove, faced me. Foxy was Milbourne, 
as you have already guessed. 

All the alcoves down the side of the room were 
fuUy occupied. Even if I had been able to secure a 
place in cither of the adjoining compartments, I 
doubt if I could have heard any of my men's talk. 
They had their heads very close together. There 
was an infernal racket in the place. I had to con- 
tent myself with watching Jumbo's lips, wishing 
vainly that I might read them. I had to be care- 
ful not to seem to stare, for at any moment he might 
raise his eyes and meet mine in the mirror. My 
face was revealed in every line by the strong lights 
behind the bar. 

As far as I could make out Jumbo and Foxy were 
trying to urge something on English to which he re- 
sisted. His reluctance was so well done I could not 
decide if it were real or assumed. Once more I was 
compeUed to pay tribute to my friend and assistant. 



208 



Thieves' Wit 



What a lucky chance it was that had led me to him. 
He was a wonder! 

The other two were an ugly-looking pair at that 
moment, the one face gross and mean, the other 
sharp and mean. They had dropped their masks. 
I wondered now how I could have thought even for 
a moment that Milbourne was stupid. His long 
nose, his dose-set eyes, the whole eager thrust-for- 
ward of his gaunt face suggested the evil intelligence 
of the devil himself. Not for nothing was this man 
called Foxy. 

After a while they seemed to come to an under- 
standing. Jumbo sat back and putting his hand in 
his pocket, looked around for the waiter. I made 
a quiet exit to my cab outside where I waited the 
turn of events. 

They must have had another drink for it was still 
some moments before they issued from between the 
swinging doors. I saw English's eyes go at once to 
the number on my side lamps, which he read off with 
visible satisfaction. He gave me a fleeting glance as 
I sat nodding on the driver's seat. English was 
making out to show the effects of his liquor a little. 
The odier two were cold sober. 

"Say, boys," said English, "let's taxi it up; I'll 
blow." 

I made believe to come to life, hearing that, and 
hopping out touched my cap and opened the door. 

Foxy frowned and held back. "What's the use ?" 
he grumbled. 

"Aw, come on," said English. "I ain't had an 



Thieves' Wit 



209 



His slightly foolish air 



auto ride since I landed." 
was beautifully done. 

Neither Jumbo nor Foxy liked the idea, but they 
liked less calling attention to themselves by a dis- 
cussion m the street. So they all piled in. Jumbo 
pve me a number on Lexington avenue which would 
be about half a mile North of where we then were. 
There was a hole in the front glass at my ear for 
the purpose of allowing fare to communicate with 
driver. With the noise of the engine, however, I 
could hear no more than the sound of their voices 
It seemed to me that both Foxy and Jumbo were 
admonishing English not to drink so much if he 
couldn't carry it better. 

I found my number on a smallish brown stone 
dwelling facing the great sunken railway yards, and 
drew up before it. It was one of a long row of 
houses, all exactly alike. 
As my fares climbed out, English said to Jumbo: 
Horv long will we be in here?" 
"Not long," was the answer. 
"Then wait," said English to me. A glance of 
mtelligence passed between us. 

"You must like to throw your money away," 
grumbled Foxy, as t:.ey mounted the steps. 
They were admitted by a negro man-servant. 
I examined the surroundings more particularly. 
The excavating of the great yards opposite has dam- 
aged the neighbourhood as a residential district and 
the tidy little houses were somewhat fallen from 
their genteel estate. SmaU, cheap shops had opened 



210 



Thieves' Wit 



in one or two of the basements, and beauty parlours, 
or dry-cleaning establishments on the parlour floors. 
Only one or two houses of the row retained a self- 
respecting air, and of these the house I waited be- 
fore was one. The stone stoop had been renovated, 
the door handles were brightly polished, and the 
windows cleaned. Simple, artistic curtains showed 
within. In fact it had all the earmarks of the 
dwelling of a well-to-do old-fashioned family which 
had refused to give up its old home when the first 
breath of disfavour ,fell upon the neighbourhood. 

I should further explain that the houses were 
three story and basement structures with mansard 
roofs over the cornices. At the comer of the street, 
that is to say three doors from where my cab was 
standing, there was a new building four stories high, 
which contained a brighdy lighted cafe on the street 
level and rooms above. In other words what New 
Yorkers call a Raines' Law Hotel. 

The three men remained inside the house about 
forty-five minutes, I suppose. It seemed like three 
times that space to me, waiting. They appeared at 
last, talking in slightly heightened tones, which sug- 
gested that they had partaken of spirituous refresh- 
ment inside. Their talk as far as I could hear it 
was all in respectful praise of a lady they had just 
left. She was a "good fellow," a "wise one," "long- 
headed." 

At the cab door they hesitated a moment as if in 
doubt of their next move. 



Thieves' Wit 



211 



"Let's go back to the 



"It*, early," said Jumbo. 
Turtle Bay." 
The others agreed. 

English let them get in first "Back to the Turtle 
Bay," he said to me. His lips added soundlessly: 
"She is here r ' 

When they got out again, English paid me off. 
His expressive eyes said clearly that he wished to 
speak to me further. The others stood close, and 
we dared not take any risk. 

I thanked him, touching my cap. "Any time you 
want me, gen'lemen, call up Plaza 6771," I said. 
They went inside. 

I had given the first telephone number that came 
into my head. It was that of an artist friend of 
mine who had a studio apartment on Fifty-ninth 
street. I hastened up there in the car, and routed 
him out of bed. Artists are used to these interrup- 
tions. I had a little difficulty, however, in making 
myself known to a man half asleep. He was decent 
about it, though. He gave me tobacco, and telling 
me to make myself comfortable, went back to bed. 
In an hour or so the telephone bell rang, and to 
my joy I heard English's voice on the wire. 
"This you?" he said. We named no names. 
"I get you," I said. "Fire away." 
He plunged right into his story and though plainly 
labouring under excitement, was admirably clear and 
succinct. 

"She is confined in that house. She was lured 
there this morning by a forged letter from you in- 



212 



Thieves' Wit 



ttructing her to go there for certain evidence. I did 
not see her. I understood from their talk that so 
far she is all right." 

^ "The house is occupied by a woman they call Lo- 
rina or Mrs. Mansfield. Handsome, blonde woman 
of forty ; great force of character. She is a member 
of the gang, perhaps the leader of it. Anyway, they 
all defer to her. She has a better head than either 
Jumbo or Foxy. I was taken there to-night for the 
purpose of having her size me up. Apparently she 
approved of me." 

"I understood th^t the girl is safe until to-morrow 
monung. Then they plan" — his voice began to 
shake here — "to — to do away with her." 

"Unless I come across with the paper they want?" 
I interrupted. 

"Whether you do or not," he said grimly. "They 
have no intention of letting her go. They plan to 
get you, too, to-morrow." 
"How?" 

"I don't know. I was not consulted." 
"Go on." 

"The — the job they are trying to force on me," 
he faltered, "is to dispose of her body. They chose 
me because I am not suspected by you, not followed. 
I am to carry it out of the house piecemeal Oh — 1 
it's horrible I" 

"Steady 1" I said. "I promise you that won't be 
necessary. Any more particulars?" 

"Mrs. Mansfield lives alone," he went on. "She 
has three coloured servants, two maids and a man." 



Thieves' Wit 



213 



"Did jrou find out where they slept?" 
"Yet. The two maids on the top floor in the 
front room, the man somewhere in the basement." 
Are they m the gang?" 

*!. "?°' ^^^^ ^° "°^ ^°'^ *'•"* ^*'»» Farrell is in 
the house. But the man, I understood, could be de- 
pcndcd on absolutely. Which means that he is 
ready for any black deed. He is as ugly and strong 
as a gorilla." * 

thc'Sc ?"''°"* ^"^ "'''" '"*^™"' arrangements of 
"On the first floor there is a parlour in front, din- 
ing-room and pantry behind. On the second floor 
the front room is a sitting-room or oflice. The 
telephone is here. Mrs. Mansfield sleeps in the rear 
room on this floor. Between her bedroom and the 
office there I, an interior room, and that is where 
M.S, Farrell is confined. This room can be entered 
only through Mrs. Mansfield's bedroom." 
'Did you notice the lodes on the doors?" 
'No. There was nothing out of the common. On 
the front door a Yale lock of the ordinary pattern." 
Anything moi-e?" 
"One thing. Mrs. Mansfield goes armed. She 
has a small automatic pistol with a maxim silencer 
which IS evidently her favourite toy. I hope I wt 
what you wanted. They were at me every minute. 
1 could not look around much." 

''No one could have done better I" I said heartily. 
What do you want me to do now ?" 
Where are you?" 



ai4 



Thieves' Wit 



In my own botrdingJiouie. The party at the 
Turtle Bay loon broke up. The telephone here it 
in the restaurant in the batement, and everybody 
•leepa upatairs." ' 

"You had better stay at home until morning," I 
•aid, after thinking a moment. "It ii very likely 
that they are having you watched to-night." 
"But I muit do something. I couldn't sleep." 
"There is really nothing you can do now. Stay 
where you can hear the telephone and I'll call you if 
I need you. I'U caU you anyway when I get her out 
»«fe. If you do not hear from me by say, three 
odock, go to police headquarters, tell them all the 
circumstances, and have the house surrounded and 
forced." 

"I understand." 

"To-morrow morning if all goes weU, you must 
go to work as usual. I don't mean that we shall 
lose aU our work so far if I can help it. They must 
not subject you." 

"Don't take too big a chance, Ben, the girl " 

"Don't worry. The girl is worth fifty cases to 
me. But I mean to save both." 



ai 

I ^^"^ Jo"' for wme thing. I needed and 

talk I was back in front of the Lev!n<>»». 
hou.e, .till at the wheel of my taxi I hTk *''""' 
changed my clothe, in th7.?e.„til VSr"; 
want the chauffeur', uniform Th^oVn larfert 
^^« m any deacription that might be circulSeS L 

P«Ming the hou.e .lowly I jurveved it fmm „- 
menttoroof. All the JndowTTel d^T 'xhe' 

the .e^oln r ^ ^'V^ ^"'- The first floor and 
the .econd floor wmdow. were do.ed. The two 

rictsr^str '''- -'''-' -- »^--'« - 

Turning the comer, I came to a stop outside A^ 
aTe'r r.°^ f V'-n I have menti^Sed It wt 

Seer Thtnil Tu' u' ''"'' '" »«* °'<^«red I 
ro^ V ^ """* *''" ''°*«' "Ki^t" were in this 

wS ^°\"'*"''d from a narrow lobby from 

was -mtt K P""""* " n«»""t when the waiter 
toT-i"'.^™" *"'"''»• In the lobby I turned 

««irfc There was no one to question me. 



ai6 



Thieves' Wit 



In one tide pocket I carried • imall but efficient 
kit of tooU, in the other ■ bottle of chloroform and 
a roll of cotton. My pistol was in my hip pocket. 

I went up the three flights without meeting any 
one, lighted by a red fl^obe on each landing. There 
was a fourth flight ending at a closed door which I 
figured must give on the roof. It was bolted on the 
inside, of course, and I presently found myself out 
under the stan. 

This building, you will remember, was half a 
story higher than the row of dwellings which ad- 
joined it. It was therefore a drop of only six feet 
from the parapet of one roof to the parapet of the 
other. Easy enough to go; a little more difficult 
perhaps to return that way. From the parapet I 
stepped noiselessly to the roof of the first dwelling, 
and crossed the two intervening roofs to the house 
I meant to enter. I had nearly two hours before 
Mr. Dunsany would put the police in motion, ample 
tiue, I judged. Probably the first few minutes in 
the house would decide success or failure. 

There was a flat scuttle in the roof which, as I 
expected, was fastened from within. I could have 
opened it with my tools, but it seemed to me quicker 
and sp*er to enter by one of the windows in the 
mansard. In any case I would have to deal with the 
maids on that floor, and it was likely they slept be- 
hind locked doors. 

The cornice made a wide, flat ledge in front of 
these windows. It was a simple task to let myself 
down the sloping mansard to the ledge and creep to 



Thieves' Wit 



217 



the window. Had I been seen from the pavement 
•croM the way it would have ruined all, but the 
•treet was deserted at far at 1 could >ee up and 
down. There were no houses opposite. 

Pausing with my head inside the window I heard 
heavy breathing from the back of the room. I cau- 
tiously let myself in. Then I could distinguish two 
breathing, side by side, and knew that both women 
were sleeping in the same bed. I got out my cot- 
ton and chloroform. Fortunately for me negroes 
are generally heavy sleepers. I iet each woman 
breathe in the fumes before the cotton touched her 
face. They drifted away with scarcely a movement. 
1 left the saturated cotton on their faces without any 
cone to retain the fumes. In this way they could 
not take any injury. The potency of the drug would 
soon be dissipated in the atmosphere. 

It was a hot night and the door o.' their room 
stood open. I didn't see until too late, that a chair 
had been placed against the door to prevent the draft 
from the window slamming it. I stumbled over the 
chair. It made little noise, but the jar caused me 
to drop the precious bottle, and before I recovered 
It the contents was wasted. This was a serious loss. 
I crept down the first flight of stairs. This 
landed me on the floor where the mistress slept. As 
I approached the door of her room a shrill yapping 
started up inside. I cursed the animal under my 
breath. English had not told me that the woman 
kept a dog. It made things twice as difficult. The 
noise sounded through the house loud enough, it 



2l8 



Thieves' Wit 



seemed to me, to wake the dead. I heard somebody 
move inside the room, and I hastened down the 
next flight of stairs, and crouched at the back of the 
hall outside the dining-room door. 

Ov^r my head I heard the bedroom door unlocked, 
and presently the upper hall was flooded with light. 
I was safely out of reach of its rays. I oiiered up 
a silent prayer that the lady would not be moved to 
descend the stairs, for I pictured her carrying the 
automatic with the silencer. True, I had my own 
gun, but for obvious reasons I was averse to firing it. 

She did not come 'down. The dog apparently was 
satisfied that all was well, and ceased his yapping. 
From his voice I judged the animal to be a Pomera- 
nian. Mistress and dog finally returned to the bed- 
room and the door was locked again. With the 
dog and the lock on the door my problem was no 
easy one. I had to enter that way before I could 
reach my £^rl. She left the light burning in the up- 
stairs hall. 

Before attempting to deal with the mistress it 
seemed to me necessary to dispose of the negro in 
the basement. I went on downstairs not at all rel- 
ishing the prospect. There were swing doors both 
at the top and the bottom of the basement stairs 
which had to be opened with infinite caution to avoid 
a squeak. On the stairs between it was as dark as 
Erebus. On every step I half expected to find the 
gorilla-like creature crouching in wait for me, but 
when I finally edged through the lower door I was 



Thieves' Wit 



219 

The 



reassured by the sou tl ot a ruiibling snore, 
dog had not awaken* '1 him. 

He slept in the front nom. This had originally 
been the dining-room of the house. I cautiously 
opened the door and looked in. A certain amount 
of light came through the area windows from the 
street lamps. The negro's bed was against the wall 
between me and the windows. These were the win- 
dows which were heavily barred outside. 

When I saw the bars and felt the door which was 
a heavy hardwood affair, and had a key in it, I 
thought it would be sufficient to lock the man in. 
You see I was pretty well assured that none of these 
people would care to make a racket. However, 
there was another door leading to '.he pantry, thence 
to the kitchen. This had no lock on it, and I was 
compelled to find another means of confining him. 

Exploring the rear of the basement I came across 
a trunk in the back hall with a stout strap around 
it. This I softly removed and appropriated. Go- 
ing on through the kitchen out into the yard I found 
stout clothesline stretched from side to side. I cut 
down several lengths of it. 

While I was in the yard I made an important dis- 
covery respecting the lay of the back of the house. 
The lower story extended out some fifteen feet above 
the upper floors. The mistress' windows therefore 
opened on a flat extension roof. These windows 
were opened and unbarred. There was no light 
within the room. 

I returned with the strap and the lengths of rope 



220 



Thieves' Wit 



to the negro's sleeping-room. He was still snoring 
vociferously. He lay on his back with his brawny 
arms flung above his head like an infant, and his 
great chest rose like a billow with every inhalation. 
The bed was a small iron on<^ with low head and 
foot. It looked strong, but I knew that these things 
were generally of flimsy construction. 

First I laid my gun on the floor where I could 
snatch it up at need. Then with infinite care I 
passed my long trun)i strap under the bed and over 
his ankles, and drew it dose, but not tight. This 
was intended for a merely temporary entanglement. 
He never stirred. I made a noose out of one of 
the pieces of rope and passed it carefully, carefully 
over his two hands. During this he began to stir. 
The snores were interrupted. I passed the rope 
around the iron bar at the head of the bed, and as 
he came fully awake I gave it a sharp jerk binding 
his hands hard and fast. I knotted the rope. 

I flung a pillow over his head, and sat on it to still 
any cries while I made a permanent job of trussing 
him up. His great frame heaved and plunged on 
the bed in a paroxysm of brutish terror, finding him- 
self bound. You have seen a cat with a rope around 
it. Imagine a mad creature thirty times the bulk of 
a cat. But everything held. The bed rocked and 
bounced on the floor, but there were four closed 
doors between me and the woman sleeping up-stairs, 
and I hoped the sound might not carry. 

It was all over in a moment or two. The ropes 
were ready to my hand. Every time he heaved up 



Thieves' Wit 221 

I passed a fresh turn under him. Presendy I had 
him bound so tight he could not move a muscle. 
True to the character of his race, he gave up the 
struggle all at once and lay inert. There was a 
moment in which he might have cried out when I 
changed the pillow for a gag made out of the sheet, 
but by that time he was gasping for breath. I knot- 
ted the gag firmly between his teeth. Smothered 
groans issued from under it. I went over all the 
ropes twice to make sure nothing could slip. I ex- 
pected, of course, that he would wriggle out in the 
end, but I only needed a little while. 

Before proceeding further I gave my stretched 
nerves a moment or two to relax. The big task was 
still to come. Finally I stole up-stairs again. When 
I closed the doors behind me I could no longer hear 
the negro's smothered groans. The house was per- 
fectly quiet. As I softly crept up on all fours stair 
to stair I was busily debating how to open the at- 
tack. Locked door, silent gun and dog made the 
odds heavy against me. 

By the time I was half way up the main stairway 
I had made a plan. Rising to my feet I mounted 
the rest of the way with a firm tread. Instandy the 
little dog inside broke into a frantic barking. I 
heard his mistress spring out of bed. I hastily un- 
screwed the electric light bulb, and throwing a leg 
over the banisters slid noiselessly down to the first 
floor again. As before I sought the security of the 
back halJ. 

She unhesitatingly opened the door— she was a 



222 



Thieves' Wit 



bold one. I heard her catch her breath to find the 
hall in darkness. Her hand shot out, I hea-d the 
click of the switch, but of course there was no light. 
Instantly she began shooting. The light "ping" of 
her weapon had an inexpressibly deadly sound. The 
bullets thudded viciously into wood and plaster. 
From the direction of the latter scunds, she was 
shooting along the upper hall and down the stairs. 

I knew she had ten shots, not more, and I counted 
them. After the tenth, running forward in the hall, 
I set up a horrid groaning. She was silent above. 
I kept up the groaning, and threshed about on the 
floor alongside the stairs. 

Suddenly she came running down. This w&s what 
I had prayed she mig^t do. She reached the switch 
in the lower hall and light flared out. Instantly I 
sprang up the outside of the stairway, vaulted over 
the banisters and stood half way up the stairs, cut- 
ting her of!, I hoped, from additional ammunition. 

She stood at the foot of the stairs gun in hand, 
glaring up at me. I saw a large, handsome woman 
with a rope of coarse blonde hair as thick as my 
wrist hanging down her back and eyes like lambent 
blue flames. By her snarl I saw that I had the ad- 
vantage for the moment, but her eyes never quailed. 
To give her her due she was as bold as a lion. I 
know of few other women of her age who would look 
handsome under the circumstances. She was wear- 
ircr a pink negligee robe over her nightdress. Her 
feet were bare, they were pretty feet, too. The lit- 
tle dog sheltered himself behind her skirts barking 



Thieves' Wit 



223 



madly. I saw the woman glance down the hall. 
No doubt she was wondering why the noise didn't 
bring the negro. 

"What do you want?" she demanded in a high and 
mighty tone. 

"Never mind what I want," I returned. "Do 
what I tell you." 

"If you let me go to my room I'll give you what 
money I have," she said. 

"And load up again," I said smiling. 

"You can watch me. I have two hundred dollars 
in the house. It's all you get, anyway." 

"That's not what I came for." 

By that she knew me. She bared her fine white 
teeth and raised her gun. 

"It's empty," I said laughing. "I counted the 
shots." 

She swore with heartfelt bitterness like a man. 

I drew my own gun. "This one is loaded," I 
said. 

I descended a step or two to enforce my orders. 
I pointed the gun at her. "Open the front doorl" 
I commanded. "Go into the vesti'- ile and close it 
behind you." 

My purpose was to lock her between the two sets 
of doors while I searched for Sadie. She scowled 
at me sullenly, and for a moment I thought I had 
her beaten; she seemed about to obey. But reflect- 
ing perhaps that I didn't want to bring in outsiders 
any more than she, she tork a chance. Suddenly 
putting down her head she ran like a deer for the 



224 



Thieves' Wit 



rear hall, the little dog whimpering in terror at her 
heels. 

The door at the head of the basement stairs 
banged open and she plunged down, calling on her 
servant. I had to make a quick decision. The way 
was presumably open to Sadie, but there were plenty 
of knives in the kitchen and if she liberated the man 
I would have to fight my way out of the house against 
the two of them. I ran after her. A rough house 
in the basement followed, doors slamming, chairs 
overturned, and the ceaseless yelping of the dog. 

She ran into the front room, saw the negro's pre- 
dicament, and ran back through the pantries to the 
kitchen. I was close at her heels. She knew just 
where to find her knife, and she was out of the room 
again by the other door before I could stop her. 
She ran back through the hall to the front room, 
slamming both doors in my face to delay me. She 
tried to lock the second door, but I got my foot in it. 

She flung herself on the negro, sawing at his bonds 
with the knife. Fortunately there was some light 
in this room. I dragged her off the bed. L had 
only one arm free on account of the gun. She tore 
herself free from me, and turning, came at me stab- 
bing with the knife. I thought my last hour had 
come. I fired over her head. She ran out of the 
room. 

! stopped to look at my prisoner's bonds. I found 
them intact. In bending over him my foot struck 
something on the floor. I picked tip her gun. She 
had been obliged to drop it in order to use the knife. 



Thieves' Wit 



225 



I ran after her. As I put foot on the upper stairs 
I heard her slam her bedroom door and turn the 
key. So there I had my work to do all over — but 
not quite all, for I had the gun now, and it was 
hardly likely she would have another. 



22 

1 HAMMERED on the door with the butt of 
my revolver — a little noise more or less 
scarcely mattered now, and commanded her to 
open it. 

She was not so easily to be intimidated. Through 
the door she consigned me to the nether world. "If 
you break in the door I'll croak the girl," she threat- 
ened. 

I believed her capable of it. Remembering the 
knife she carried, I shuddered. 

We spent swne moments in exchanging amenities 
through the door. I wished to keep her oca- 'ed, 
while I threshed around in my head for some ex- 
pedient to trap her. 

"All right 1" I cried, giving the door a final rat- 
tle. "I'll get the poker from the furnace." 

She laughed tauntingly. 

Of course I had no such intention. I had sud- 
denly remembered the open windows on the roof 
of the extension. It seemed easier to drop from 
above than climb from below, so I went up-stairs. 

The room over Mrs. Mansfield's bedroom was 
unlocked and untenanted. I took, off my shoes at 
the threshold, and crept across with painful care to 
avoid giving her warning below. Unfortunately the 
windows were closed. I lost precious time open- 

336 



Thieves' Wit 



227 



ing one of them a fraction of an inch at a time. 
FinaUy I was able to lean out. She had lighted 
up her room. I could see the glow on the sill be- 
low. To my great satisfaction I saw that she had 
pulled down the blinds, without, however, closing 
the window under me. For while I looked the blind 
swayed out a little in the draft. Evidently the pos- 
sibihty of an attack from that side had not occurred 
to her. 

It was a drop of about fourteen feet from the 
window sill on which I leaned to the roof of the ex- 
tension below. I dared not risk it. Even suppose 
1 escaped injury, the noise of my faU would warn 
her, and the moments it would take me to recover 
my balance might give her time to execute her foul 
plan. I believed that she had my girl locked in 
the inner room (else I should surely have heard 
from Sadie) . This would give me one second, while 
she was unlocking the door— but only one second. 

1 he bed m the room I was in was made up. Al- 
ways with the same precautions of silence I fashioned 
a rope sufficiently long out of the two sheets and 
the cotton spread. I fastened the end of the rope 
to the leg of a heavy bureau beside the window, and 
carefully paid it out over the sill. Before trusting 
myself to it I plamied every movement in advance 
1 must let myself down face to the building, I 
decided, until I had almost reached the roof. Then 
I must drop, and with the reflex of the same move- 
ment spring into the woman's room. 

It worked all right. I was already inside when 



228 



Thieves' Wit 



ihe turned around. It wa* well that it wat so, be- 
cause the door into the inner room stood wide. I 
•aw my girl lying on a couch. Like a flash the 
woman had the lights out. Quick as a cat she was 
through the door, knife in hand. But I had got my 
bearings with that one glimpse. I was hard upon 
her. I flung my arms around her from behind, pin- 
ioning her close. I dragged her back into the outer 
room. She was surprisingly strong for a woman, 
but I was just a little stronger. She spit out curses 
like an angry cat. 

I dragged her , across the room to where the 
switch was. I had to take an arm from her to search 
for it. She renewed her struggles. It took half a 
dozen attempts. Once she escaped me altogether. 
She still had the knife. I do not know how I man- 
aged to escape injury. She slit my coat with it. 

At last I got the blessed light turned on. She 
was still jabbing at me with the knife, but I could 
see what I was doing now. The little dog fastened 
his teeth in my ankle. I kicked him across the room. 

Between the two doors I have mentioned there was 
a third door, which evidently gave on a closet. It 
had a key in it. I dragged my captive to it, and 
somehow managed to get it open. I flung her in, 
knife and all, slammed the door, locked it, and 
leaned against the frame sobbing for breath. I was 
half blinded by the sweat in my eyes. The woman 
was all in, too, or I never should have got the door 
closed. For a while she lay where she had fallen 
without sound or movement When his mistress 



Thieves' Wit 229 

diMppe«>ed the dog ran under the bed. Hi. little 
pipe was now to hoane he could tcarcely make him- 
self heard. 

Presently the woman recovered her forcei. 
Springing up, the hurled herielf against the door 
with as much force as she could gather in that nar- 
row space. The door opened out, and the lock 
was a flimsy one. I saw that I couldn't keep her 
there for long. I ran into the inner room. 

My dearest girl was lying on a couch, fully 
dressed and unfettered, but strangely inert, stupe- 
hed. I was terrified by her aspect. However, her 
body was warm and she was breathing, though not 
naturaUy. She was not wholly unconscious. Her 
head moved on the pillow, and her misty eyes sought 
mine with a faint returning gleam of sentience. Ob- 
yiously she had been drugged, and the effert was 
just now beginning to wear off. 

I could not stop to restore her there. I gathered 
her up m my arms, snatched up her hat which was 
lying near, and ran out through the bedroom. I 
had no more than got the bedroom door locked be- 
hind me, when the door of the closet burst open, 
and the woman fell out into the room. Sh,; immcdi- 
ately threw herself against the other door, but as 
regarded diat, my mind was easier. It was a much 
Heavier affair, and it opened towards her. I need 
not point out ihat there is a considerable difference 
between bursting a door out, and pulling it in. 

I earned my precious burden down the stairs, 
murmurmg phrases in her ear that I did not know 



230 



Thieves' Wit 



I had at my command. She commenced to weep, a 
ver> encouraging sign. I believe I wept with her. 
She was dearer to me than my life. 

I paused at the front door to try to bring her to 
somewhat before venturing out into the street. Un- 
fortimately there was no water within reach. I was 
afraid to take much time. The woman upstairs 
had obtained some kind of a weapon with which she 
was battering the door. In her insane passion she 
had forgotten all considerations of prudence. She 
finally managed to split one of the panels; the key, 
however, was safe in my pocket. She hurled im- 
precations after us. 

I opened the outer door a little, and the fresh air 
revived my dearest girl marvellously. Presently 
she was able to stand with a little assistance. Her 
first conscious act was to pin on her hat with a pite- 
ous assumption of her usually composed manner. 
For a long time she could not speak, but she knew 
me now, and leaned on me trustfully. 

I knew how best to reach her. "Brace up!" I 
whispered urgently. "Pull yourself together. I 
need you. Show me what you can do 1" 

She smiled as much as to say she was ready for 
anything. Such was her temper. 

We went out, closing both doors behind us. I 
fully expected to see a knot of the curious on the 
steps, attracted by the strange sounds from within. 
But the street was still empty. There must be a 
lot of strange things happening that no one ever 
knows of. We did not meet anybody until we got 



Thieves' Wit 



231 



around the corner. Here a policeman stood idly 
•winging his club and staring at the taxicab, specu- 
lating no doubt on the mystery of its apparent aban- 
donment and wondering what he ought to do about 
it. The back room of the saloon was now closed. 
I saluted him, inwardly praying that he would 
not be led to look down at my feet. I had man- 
aged to keep my cap through all vicissitudes, but 
I had no shoes on. I briskly opened the door, and 
helped Sadie in. 

"Here you are, Miss," said I. 
Then I ran completely around the car to avoid the 
bluecoat, and cranked her. Even then I could hear 
in the stillness the muffled sound of the woman'* 
blows on the door. The policeman was apparently 
unaware of anything amiss. Fortunately my en- 
gine popped at the first turn. The policeman's sus- 
picions of me were gathering, but he was a slow- 
thinking specimen. 

"Hold on a minute, fellow," he said at last. 
The car was then in motion, and I made believe 
not to hear him. Apparently he did not think it 
worth while to raise an alarm. 

I cannot tell you with what a feeling of thank- 
fuhiess I left that neighbourhood behind me. 

I took Sadie direct to her sister's. We found 
that young woman in a pretty state of fluster. She 
was of an emotional type, very different from the 
matter-of-fact Sadie. Maybe she didn't give it to 
me for leading her darling into danger 1 But I was 
happy enough to be able to take it with a grin. 



232 



Thieves' Wit 



Sadie by this time could speak for herself. She took 
my part. 

I telephoned from here to English at his board- 
ing-house as I had agreed. I still had more than 
half an hour to the good. 

He gave a restrained whoop when he heard my 
voice. "You've got her!" he cried. "You're both 
all right?" 

"Right as rain I" 

"Ben, you're a wonder!" 

At that moment I iwas quite prepared to believe it. 

"How did you manage it?" he asked. 

"Can't tell you now. The game is only start- 
mg." 

"What am I to do?" 

"Go to bed. Above all keep them from suspect- 
ing you. The whole case depends on you now. I 
will write you care Dunsany's on Monday." 

"Take care of yourself I" 

"Same to you I" 

Warning the girls to be ready to start for the 
country in an hour, I borrowed a pair of brother-in- 
law's shoes and returned the taxi to its garage. I 
then went home and washed and dressed myself in 
my own clothes. Afterwards I got out my own lit- 
tle car and went back for Sadie, By this time the 
dawn was breaking. It was Sunday. 

I found Sadie quite her own self again, and flatly 
rebellious at being ordered to give up the game and 
retire to the country. In vain I explained to her that 
theac! people Bad ^ar Jbacks against ihe wall now, 



Thieves' Wit 



233 



and that our lives were not worth a farthing dip if 
they ever caught sight of us. Sister was now on 
my side, not, however, without a few back shots at 
the one who had first got her Sadie into the crooks' 
bad books. It was not until I said that I was my- 
self going to lie low for a while that Sadie gave in. 
I'm afraid at that, that her opinion of me suffered 
a fall for the time being. 

The dearest girl was furious when she learned 
that I had almost been frightened out of my wits 
by the message from her they had sent me, so much 
so that I had been prepared to drop the whole case 
to save her. 

"That was what they were after I" she cried. "I 
had to write it, of course, because she held a pistol 
to my head. But I was sure you would understand. 
If I had thought for a moment that you would let 
;it interfere with the case I would have let her shoot." 
I shuddered. One did not know whether to 
Traise or blame such game folly. However, I reg- 
istered a little vow privately not to let Sadie's en- 
thusiasm lead her into danger again. Meanwhile I 
flugged her right there with sister looking on. She 
prompdy slapped my face— but not so hard as usual. 
I took the sisters to that same little sanatorium 
at Amityville, Long Island, where Sadie had been 
before with Miss Hamerton. The doctor-proprie- 
tor was an old friend of mine. A single warning 
word to him, and I knew they would be as safe as 
I could guard them myself. 
Notwithstanding Sadie's violent objections (she 



234 



Thieves' Wit 



•aid she had been lured to Amltyyille under false 
pretenses), I motored right back to town. I did 
intend to lay off for a day or two but I had to put 
my office in order first. It was about eight o'clock 
when I got back to Manhattan. I put up my car 
and had an excellent breakfast. I thought if I was 
going to be plugged it might as well be on a full 
stomach. I did not deceive myself as to the risk I 
ran in visiting my office, but it was absolutely neces- 
sary for me to secure certain papers and destroy 
others. ' 

I took a taxi down and ordered the man to wait. 
I cleaned everything up in case the place should be 
entered during my absence. What papers I meant 
to take with me I deposited in a satchel, and took 
the precaution of strapping it to my wrist. Then 
I locked up and returned down stairs. I found that 
my chauffeur had moved away from the doorway a 
little, consequently I was exposed for a moment or 
two on the sidewalk. 

It was sufficient. I heard that deadly little 
"ping" and simultaneously a sound like a slap on 
bare flesh. I did not know I was hit, but I fell down. 
Then a pain like the searing of a hot iron passed 
through my shoulder. 

"I'm shot I" I cried involuntarily. 

I realised that I was not seriously hurt. How- 
ever, I had no mind to get up and make mjrself a 
target for more. I made believe to close my eyes, 
and lay still. My mind worked with a strange dear- 
nessw I saw the woman across the street. She was 



Thieves' Wit 



235 



poorly dressed with a shawl over her head, but I 
recognised the stature and the curves of my antag- 
onist of the night before. 

The usual gaping crowd gathered. Nobody had 
heard the shot but me. While all eyes were di- 
rected on me the woman coolly walked away across 
the park, tossing the gun into the middle of a bush 
as she went. I said nothing. It was no part of 
my game to have her arrested. 

I suspected that the openmouthed crowd surround- 
ing me was full of spies, so I made out to be worse 
hurt than I was, groaning and writhing a little. The 
wound helped me out by bleeding profusely. One 
youth with an evil face made to take my satchel as 
if to relieve me. The strap frustrated his humane 
purpose. He was afraid to proceed further under 
that circle of eyes. 

Somebody had telephoned for an ambulance, and 
presently it came danpng up with a fresh crowd in 
Its train. The white clad surgeon bent over me. 

"I am not badly hurt," I whispered to him, "but 
please take me away quickly out of this mob." 

I was carried to Bellevue Hospital where I en- 
gaged a private room. My wound, a slight affair, 
was cauterised— I had in mind the possibility of 
poison, and dressed. Afterwards I enjoyed my first 
sleep in twenty-four hours. I had left instructions 
that no one was to be admitted to see me, and that no 
mformation regarding my cond-'ion was to be given 
out. 

By the next day I was quite myself again. I had 



236 



Thieves' Wit 



already seen the reporters, and by the exercise of 
persuasion and diplomacy had managed to keep the 
affair from being unJuly exploited in the papers. 
The police, good fellows, were hard at work on the 
case, but they could hardly be expected to accomplish 
anything without the evidence which I did not intend 
to let them have. The doctors who hate to see 
any one escape out of their hands so easily did their 
best to persuade me^ to stop a while in the hospital 
and "rest" "jut how could I rest with so much to do 
outside? 

Havmg decided that I must leave the hospital, it 
was a matter of considerable concern to me how 
this was to be effected without exposing myself to a 
fresh danger. I had received a disguised telephone 
message from English to the effect that they were 
waiting for me. I decided to confide in the visiting 
surgeon, an understanding man. 

"Sir," I said, "I am a private djtective. I have 
a gang of crooks almost ready to be rounded up. 
Knowing it, they are desperate. That is the ex- 
planation of the attack on me. Now the chances 
are that the instant I step outside the hospital I'll 
stop another bullet. What would you do if you 
were me?" 

"Call on the police," he said, of course. 

"I can't do that without exploding my charges pre- 
maturely." 

As I said, he was an understanding man. He 
didn't bother me with a lot of questions, but took 



Thieves' Wit 



237 



the caie as he found it. After thbking a while, he 
•aid: 

"How would it do if I had you transferred in an 
ambulance to my private clinic on — r— Street. You 
see you'll be loaded on out of sight in the hospital 
yard here, and you wiU be driven right inside my 
place to be unloaded. You lie flat in the ambulance 
and no one can see inside without climbing on the 
step, and a surgeon sits there." 

"Finel" I said. "You're a man of resource." 
He gave the order, and it was so done. Arrived 
at his private hospital I dressed myself in street 
clothes, borrowing a coat to replace my bloody one, 
Md callmg a taxi had myself carried to Oscar 
MiJsonsshop. 



23 

1HAVE mentioned, I believe, that Oscar Nihon 
was a wig-maker, the best in New York. His 
little shop on a quiet side street North of Madison 
Square is quaint enough to be the setting of an old- 
fashioned play. The walls are lined with old cuts 
of historical personages and famous Thespians as 
historical personages, all with particular attention 
to their hirsute features. On the counter stands a 
row of forms, each bearing some extraordinary kind 
of scalp. Oscar deals in make-up as a side line 
and the air bears the intoxicating odour of grease 
paint and cold cream. 

Oscar's business is chiefly with the theatrical pro- 
fession, but many an old beau and fading belle have 
found out that he knows more about restoring youth 
than the more fashionable beautifiers. Oscar loves 
his business. His knowledge, historical, artistic, 
scientific, is immense — but all in terms of human hair. 
He can tell you offhand how Napoleon wore his in 
1803 or any other year of his career, and will make 
you an exact sketch of the toupee ordered by the 
Duke of Wellington when his feU out. 

Oscar himself, strangely enough, or perhaps 

naturally, has next to no hair of his own, merely a 

little mousy fringe above the ears. He has a jolly 

rubicL id face and is held m hig^ affection and esteem 

«3» 



Thieves' Wit 



239 



by nis customers. He flatters me by taking a par- 
ticular mterest in my custom. I am the only one of 
his clients in the criminal line. 

He led me into one of the little cubicles where the 
trying^n takes place, and stood off to observe me 
from between narrowed lids. 

"What wiU it be now?" he said. "I was sorry 
to read of your accident." 

"A mere trifle. What would you iggest? It 
must stand sunlight and shadow, and be something 
I can keep up for a while if necessary." 

"Let me think I Your head and face offer a good 
starting-point for so many creations I" 

"In other words the Lord left me unfinished," I 
said, teasingly. 

"Not at alll I meant that in your case there 
were no awkward malformations to be overcome " 

From which it will be seen that Oscar is a diplo- 
mat. 

"Wh^t would you say to a South American gentle- 
man? he asked. "New York is full of them in the 
•ummer. 

accln?""'' "^ ^^^^' "■^° *^* *° '"'"' "P " ^P""'»'> 
"An oflicer of a liner on shore leave." 
"w '''°" *'^ ^°°^ ''*'' anybody else." 

dlcrr *'"' ^""^ *^°"* "" Armenian fruit ped- 

"That would restrict my activities too much I 
must be able to go anywhere." 



240 



Thieves' Wit 



"I ice 70U have an idea of your own," he said. 
"What ii it?" 

"We've used several rough-neck disguises," I said. 
"Suppose you fix me up as a swell this time. I have 
a mind to stop at a fashionable hotel." 

"The very thing I" cried Oscar. "A curled 
toupee, slightly silvered ; a wash for the skin to give 
an interesting pallour; a little touching up about the 
eyes for an expression of world weariness; waxed 
moustache, mono^e — 1 — " 

"Easy I The burning-glass would g^ve me dead 
away. You have to be bom to that." 

"Well you don't have to have the monocle," said 
OKar regretfully. "But it's very aristocratic." 
The costume must be exquisitely appointed — it will 
be expensive—^" 

"Expense is no object in this Case," I said. 

He set to work and an hour later I left his shop 
a changed man. In th? event of such a contingency I 
had already secured from Mr. Dunsany the name of 
his tailor, and I now left him a rush order for sev- 
eral suits. Meanwhile I bought the best I could 
ready made. I went to the most fashionable out- 
fitters and invested heavily. Until they displayed 
their stock here, I had no idea that men might in- 
dulge such extravagant tastes. All this was to be 
sent to the Hotel Rotterdam where I engaged an 
ext>ensive suite. I believed that it would be the 
last place in town where the gang would think of 
looking for me. 

I wished to persuade them that I had been scared 



Thieves' Wit 241 

off. After having the cryptogram receipt photo- 
graphed, I returned it in a plain envelope to Jumbo'a 
flat. By telephone I instructed Keenan to discharge 
all the operatives, close the Forty-second street office 
and advertise it for rent. This place had outlived 
Its usefulness. Jumbo, Foxy, et al., had proved 
themselves more than a match for such operatives 
as could be hired. 

This done, I went out to AmityviUe to spend a day 
with Sadie. I had promised to lay off for a little, 
and anyway I had to wait until my new clothes were 
done before bemg seen around town. After the 
mad excitement of the past few days, we spent a 
heavenly peaceful interlude under the oaks of my 
friend's big place. 

While I was out there an interesting report from 
my sole remaining operative arrived. 

Report OF J. M. #10 

.J™» »oon as I heard that you and S. F. were all 
right I went to bed as you instructed. It seemed 
to me that I had scarcely fallen asleep when I was 
awakened by my landlady at my door to say that a 
man wanted to see me. It was no more than day- 
break then. Hard upon her knock Jumbo entered 
tfte room. I had barely time to pull on my false hair 
and fix It. Hereafter I shaU have to sleep in it 

Jumbo was in a state of no little excitement. He 
pve me his version of what had happened. Lorina, 
Having apparently just escaped from her room, had" 



a4a 



Thievw' Wit 



called him up about half an hour before. I am not 
lure but what Jumbo came to me because she had 
suggested a suspicion of mc. However, I think it 
more lilcely that he just wanted moral support. He 
was badly frightened. Jumbo for all his bluS, is 
not a strong character. He is dependent both on 
Foxy and on the woman, and now seems disposed to 
lean on me. If he was suspicious my sleepiness and 
bad-temper upon being awakened must have reas- 
sured him. 

I dressed and We went right up to the Lexington 
avenue house. Being Sunday, I had the day to my- 
self. Mrs. Mansfield had gone out leaving word 
that we were to wait until she came in or telephoned. 
The maids believed that she had gone to consult the 
police. These two were full of highly-coloured 
accotmts of the supposed robbery of the night before. 
The hulking black man, however, was silent and 
sullen. He knew. I wonder what you did to him. 
I don't think I ever saw a more repulsive human 
creature — or one more powerful. 

Foxy arrived shortly after we did. I am now 
admitted to terms of the closest equality by these 
two. The understand) x i* that each knows enough 
to the discredit of the others to ensure faithfulness 
all around. We all chafed at the enforced inaction, 
but dared not go against Lorina's instructions. She 
is the boss. The other two half expected the police 
to descend on the house momentarily. 

About ten o'clock Mrs. Mansfield returned in a 
taxi-cab. This taxi, by the way, is her property 



Thieves' Wit 



243 



and the driver it one of the gang. The woman was 
handsomely dretied without ditguiie of any kind 
We had a conference in the sitting-room up-stairs. 
Mrs. Mansfield gave us some further details of the 
previous night. As soon as she succeeded in break- 
ing out of her room after telephoning to Jumbo and 
Foxy she hastened up to S. F.'s house, also to your 
place, both of which addresses she knew. She said 
that she was disguised, so she must have some place 
outside where she changes her clothes. She found 
she was too late at both places. You had carried 
off S. F. in your automobile. 

Mrs. Mansfield then went down to Fortieth street. 
From the park opposite, she watched your office for 
four hours. You got inside too quick for her, she 
said, but when you came out she potted you. Her 
eyes gleamed like a devil's as she said it. Fancy how 
my heart went down. 

She had then changed her -' thes and come 
straight home. She couldn't tell i;jw seriously she 
had wounded you. A general prayer went around 
the table that it would be your finish. She said we 
should hear presently. 

She seems to have an unlimited number of men 
subject to her orders. While she waited for you 
at your office she had sent for several, and posted 
them near. They mixed in the crowd that sur- 
rounded you when you fell. One of them had been 
instructed to make away with your satchel. Another 
was to follow the ambulance to the hospital. A 



244 



Thieves' Wit 



third wai to recover her gun after the excitement 
wai over and return it to her. 

The firtt of these, an evil-looking young black- 
guard, came in while we talked. He reported no 
•ucceu. The satchel was strapped to your wrist, 
he said, and when he started to unfasten it the crowd 
began to murmur. He said that you had been shot 
in the shoulder, and had been carried to Bellevue. 
He gave it as his opinion that you were not as badly 
hurt as you ma(|e out. This cheered me greatly. 
Bitter disappointment was expressed around the 
table. 

Later another of Lorina's men reported by tele- 
phone that he had learned through an orderly in the 
hospital that you had suffered only a slight flesh 
wound, and would be able to leave the hospital next 
day. On hearing this she gave her orders to have 
every exit from the hospital watched. Instructions 
were to shoot to kill. If it can be found out in ad- 
vance what time you are going to leave, she means to 
be on hand herself. 

As soon as I could get out without exciting sus- 
picion, I sent you a warning by telephone. 

J.M. 



#11 

June 2ith. 
To-day I had to go to my work as usual, so I 
didn't see any of the gang until night. In our pres- 
ent state of excitement and uncertainty we have aban- 



Thieves' Wit 



»4S 



doned the Turtle Bay ai a meeting place. I found 
my partners in anything but a good humour. 

In the firit place they had learned through the 
friendly orderly that in spite of all their measures, 
you had been safely spirited out of the hospital in 
an ambulance. It was learned by way of the ambu- 
lance driver that you had been carried to Dr. — i — 's 
private hospital. It was then too late to do any- 
thing. By the time they got there, you had left, and 
the town had swallowed you up. 

The entire strength of the gang, excepting me, has 
been devoted all day to picking up your trail, so far 
without any success. They have watched all your 
usual haunts, your flat, your restaurant, S. F.'s home 
and your office on Fortieth street. Foxy brought 
in word that the International Bureau on Forty- 
Second street had been closed, and all the operatives 
discharged. He trailed Kecnan, the supposed 

manager to the office of the Railway, where he 

was re-engaged for his old position. 

Jumbo came in with the information that the piece 
of evidence which they regarded as of such im- 
portance had been returned to him. I don't know 
what this was. Lorina, examining it, said that it 
appeared to have the remains of paste on the cor- 
ners, and that you had probably had it photographed. 

Foxy gave it as his opinion that you had been 
scared off. "We know there is no one backing him," 
said he. "He has no financial resources. He can't 
keep it up." 

Lorina would have none of it. Her eyes become 



246 



Thieves' Wit 



incandescent with hatred when your name is men- 
tioned now. "Don't you believe it," she snarled. 
"That man will never give up. I have seen his face 
and I know ! He's a bull-dog. He will never rest 
until he has pulled us down, tmless we stop him with 
a bullet." 

Jumbo became panicky. His suggestion was for 
the gang to scatter and lie low for the time-being. 

Lorina scorned him. She proceeded to point out 
to us all just where you stood. She appeared to 
know as well as ^ou do. Her insight is uncanny. 
You have no case, she said, except possibly against 
Foxy. You are too conceited to be satisfied with 
one. You will not strike until you have a chance of 
landing the whole gang. 

"But how about the kidnapping?" asked Jumbo. 

"The police would have been here before this if 
Enderby wanted to proceed on that," she said. 
"Why, he watdied me walk away after I shot him, 
and never said a word. No, I tell you he hasn't 
got the evidence yet, and we're safe until he gets it. 
He's aiming to make a grand haul of the whole gang 
together, and get his name in the headlines." 

The others were considerably b^.essed. They 
Ksked for instructions. 

"We've got to go on just as we are," said Lorina. 
"Foxy must keep the room on F Tty-Ninth street. 
Jumbo the flat on One Hundredth street, and I stay 
here. Let everybody go about freely, and meet here 
a> usual, that is, all except English. English mustn't 
come here again. Enderby isn't on to him yet. 



Thieves' Wit 



247 



Enderby, if I have the right dope, will lie 1- w for a 
few days and then thinking that we are lulled to 
security, will quietly start to work again. That's 
why we must keep our present hang-outs. He's got 
to come to one of them to pick us up, and then we'll 
have him." 

This woman is a wonder in her way. Fortunately, 
there is one fact that spoils all her reasonmg — ^your 
humble servant. 

As we broke up she said a significant thing, 
"Lord I the conceit of the man, thinking he can 
break up the gang! Why if he did land all of us 
it wouldn't make any difference. He hasn't got 
within a mile of the real boss !" 

Being excited she spoke more recklessly than usual. 
So it appears that our work perhaps is just begin- 
ning! 

J.M 



ON Wednesday morning I motored to town and 
took up my residence in the Hotel Rotterdam. 
I hardly knew myself amidst such grandeur. For 
several days the situation remained in status quo. 
I learned from English's daily reports that Lorina 
and her gang were still waiting for my first move. 
I, for my part, was determined to make them move 
first. 

Only one of his reports gave me anything to do. 
I quote from it: 

"Among all the men who come and go in this den 
of crooks there is one that has particularly excited 
my interest and compassion. It is an extremely 

food-looking boy of eighteen or thereabouts whom 
know simply as Blondy. He seems so like a nor- 
mal boy, jolly, frank and mischievous, that I keep 
wondenng how he fell into Lorina's clutches. Vk 
reminds me of my boy Eddie at his age. Lorina has 
him thoroughly intimidated. She is more overbear- 
ing with him than the others. He seems not to be 
trusted very far, but is used as errand boy and spy. 
His extreme good looks and ingenuous air, make him 
valuable to them I fancy. 

"Blondy's instinct seems to have led him to make 

friends with me, though as far as he knows I am no 

better than the rest. At any rate we have had a few 

talks together and feel quite intimate. Without any 

34S 



Thieves' Wit 



249 



su^srion from mc, he has kept this from the others. 
It IS quite touching. 

"I would like very much to get the boy out of this 
before the grand catastrophe. I'm sure he's worth 
saving. Naturally in my position I can't undertake 
any missionary work. Could you with safety ar- 
range for some one to get hold of the boy ? He tells 
me that he lives at the Adelphi Association House, 
JNo. — — West 125th street. Apparently it is a 
semi-philanthropic club or boarding-house for young 

w"'. .P^ P*'"* ^"^ ^y tJ»e name of Ralph 
Manly." "^ 

I was in almost as unfavorable a position for 
undertaking "missionary work" as Mr. Dunsany. 
After fhinking the matter over I decided to again 
ask the help of the famous surgeon who had be- 
friended me in the hospital. I called at his office 
for the ostensible purpose of consulting him as to 
my health. When I was alone with him in his con- 
sulting room I made myself known. Being a human 
kind of man, notwithstandmg his eminence, he was 
interested in the dramatic and mysterious elements 
of my story. Far from abusing me for taking up 
his valuable time, he expressed himself as very will- 
ing to help save the boy. 

We consulted a directory of charities in his office, 
and he found that he was acquainted with several 
men on the board of managers of the Adelphi Asso- 
ciation. This offered an opening. He promised 
to proceed with the greatest caution, and promised 
to write to me at my hotel if he had any luck. 
Three days later I heard from him as follows: 



250 



Thieves' Wit 



"I took my friend on the Adelphi board partly 
into my confidence, and between him and the doctor 
employed by the association to safeguard the health 
of the boys, the matter was easily arranged. The 
doctor's regular weekly visit to the institution fell 
Yesterday. He saw the boy, and making believe to 
be struck by something in his appearance, put him 
through an examination. He hinted to the boy that 
he was in rather a bad way, and instructed him to 
report to my office for advice this morning.' 

"The young fellow showed up in a very sober 
state of mind. He is really sm sound as a dollar, but 
for the present I dm keeping him anxious without 
being too explicit. He appears to be quite as attrac- 
tive a youth as your friend said. I am very much in- 
terested, but am not yet prepared to make up my 
mind about him. He is commg to-morrow at two- 
thirty. If it is convenient for you to be here, I will 
arrange a meeting as if by accident." 

Needless to say, I was at the doctor's office at the 
time specified. I found the blonde boy already wait- 
ing among other patients in the outer office. It was 
easy to recognise him from Mr. Dunsany's descrip- 
tion. He was better than merely good-looking; he 
had nice eyes. He was dressed a little too showily 
as is natural to a boy of that age when he is allowed 
to consult his own taste exclusively. 

There happened to be a vacant chair beside him 
and I took it. Presently I addressed some friendly 
ccMnmoi^ilace to him. He responded naturally. 
Evidently he was accustomed to having people like 
him. Soon we were talking away like old friends. 
I w|is more and more taken with him. Primarily, it 



Thieves' Wit 251 

was his good looks, of course, the universal safe- 
conduct, but m addition to that I was strongly 
affected by a quality of wistfulness in the boy's glance, 
of which he himself was quite unconscious. Surely, 
I sa.d to myself, a boy of his age had no business 
to be carrymg around a secret sorrow. The doctor 
issumg from his consulting room, saw us hobnobbing 
together, and aUowed us to wait until everybody else 
had been attended to. 

He had me into the consulting room first. "Well 
what do you think of him ?" he asked. ' 

"I am charmed," I said. "There are no two 
words about it." 

"So was I," he said, "but I didn't want to raise 
your hopes too high in my letter." 

After discussing a little what we would do with 
him, we had the boy in. 

"Ralph, my friend, Mr. Boardman, wished to be 
regularly mtroduced," said the doctor. 

Boardman was the name I had taken in my present 
disguise. 

The boy shook hands nicely, he was neither too 
bashful, nor too brash, and some facetious remarks 
were made all around. 

"I tell Boardman," said the doctor, "that if he 

had done his duty by his country and had had half a 

dozeiv sons like you he would have no time to be 

worrymg about his appendix now." 

"Has your father got half a dozen like you?" I 
asked. ' 

An expression of pain ran across the boy's face. 



252 



Thieves' Wit 



"I have no brothers," he said. "My' father is 
dead." 

"Well, since you're a fatherless son, and I'm a son- 
less father — with an appendix, perhaps we can cheer 
each other up a little,' I said. "Will you have 
dinner with me at my hotel to-night?" 

Boys never see anything suspicious in sudden over- 
tures of friendship. Ralph accepted, blushing with 
pleasure. 

The dinner was a great success. I don't know 
which of us was the better entertained. My young 
friend's prattle, ingenuous, boastful, lightheaded, 
renewed my own boyhood. It was rather painful 
though to see one naturally so frank, obliged to pull 
up when he found himself approaching dangerous 
ground. Then he would glance at me to see if I 
had noticed anything. 

I had him several times after that. It was a risk, 
of course, but one must take risks. At the same 
time I was pretty sure from Mr. Dunsany's reports 
that Ralph never talked of his outside affairs to any 
of the gang. At least he never told Mr. Dunsany 
anything about his dinners with Mr. Boardman at 
the Rotterdam, and he was friendly with him. 

The denouement of this incident really belongs a 
little later in my story, but for the sake of continuity 
I will give it here. 

I soon saw that I would have no difficulty in win- 
ning Ralph's full confidence. His gratitude for 
friendliness was very affecting. I could see that he 



Thieves' Wit 



253 

I let him 



often wished to bare his painful secret 
take his own time about it. 

It was the doctor's offering him a position in a 
friend's office that brought matters to a head. 
Ralph refused it with a painful air. He could give 
no reason for it to the doctor. Afterwards when I 
had him alone with me I saw that it was coming. 

"That certainly was decent of Dr. ," he said 

diffidently, "I don't know why he's so good to me." 
"Oh, you're not a bad sort of boy," I said lightly. 
"You, too," he said shyly. "Especially you. 1— 
I never had a man friend before." 
I smiled encouragingly. 

"I suppose you wonder why I couldn't take the 
position?" he went on. 
"That's your affair." 

"But I want to tell you. I— I wouldn't be al- 
lowed to take it. I am not a free agent." 

"Perhaps we could help you to be one," I sug- 
gested. 

"I don't know. Maybe you wouldn't want to 
have anything more to do with me. Oh, there's a 
lot I want to tell you I" he cried imploringly, "But 
I don't know how you'll take it," 
"Try me," 

"Would you— would you kick me out," he said, 
agitated and breathless, "if you knew that my dad 
had committed a forgery, if you knew that he had 
died in prison ?" 

"Why, no," I said calmly, "I suspect you were not 
responsible for that," 



254 



Thieves' Wit 



A sigh of relief euaped him. "You are kind I 
— But that'i only the beginning," he went on. "But 
I feel I can tell you now. I'm in an awful hole. I 
suppose you will think I'm a weak character for not 
trying to get out of it more, and I am weak, but I 
didn't know what to do I" 

"Tell me all about it," I said. 

And he did ; all about Lorina and Foxy and Jumbo 
as he knew them. They didn't trust him far. He 
knew nothing of their actual operations, but his 
honest young heart told him they were crooks. 
Lorina held him under a spell of terror. He had 
not up to this time been able to conceive of the idea 
of escaping her. There are those who would blame 
the boy, I have no doubt, but I am not one of them. 
I have seen too often that a mind which may after- 
wards become strong and self-reliant is at Ralph's 
age fatally subservient to older minds. Those who 
would blame him should remember that until he mei 
the doctor and me he had not a disinterested friend 
in the world. They must grant that he instantly re- 
acted to kindness and decent feelings. 

"How did you first get into this mess?" I asked, 
strongly curious. 

"I'd have to tell you my whole life to explain 
that." 

"Fire away." 

I will give 3rou Ralph's story somewhat abridged. 

"My mother died when I was a baby," he said. 
"I do not remember her. My father and I lived 
alone with servants who were always changing. We 



Thieves' Wit 



255 



did not seem to cttch on with people. I mem, we 
didn't teeni to have friend* like everybody h«d. I 
thought this was strange when I was little. My 
father was quite an old man, but we got along pretty 
well. He was what they called a handwriting ex- 
pert. He wrote books about handwriting. Law- 
yers consulted him, and he gave evidence at trials." 

"What was his name?" I asked. 

"David Andrus." 

Now I remembered the trial of David Andrus, 
so I was in a position to check up that part of Ralph's 
story. 

"I was twelve years old," he went on, "when Mrs. 
Mansfield first began coming to our apartment. I 
don't know where or how my father met her, of 
course. He knew her pretty well already when I 
first saw her. At first she was kind to me, and 
brought me things, and I was fond of her. I told 
myself we had a friend like anybody else now. I 
used to brag about her in school. 

"Bye and bye I found out, I don't know how, that 
she was a sham, that her kindness meant nothing. 
Little by little I began to hate her, though I was 
careful not to let her see it, for I was afraid of her 
cold blue eye. Besides my father became more and 
more crazy about her. He seemed to lose his good 
sense as far as she was concerned. She could make 
him do anything she wanted. ChUdren see more 
than they are supposed to. 

"It is three years now since the crash came. I 
was fourteen then. One day my father was arrested 



256 



Thieves' Wit 



«nd taken to the Tomb>. Mri. Manifield took me 
to her houM, not the same one the has now. She 
treated me all right, but I hated her. Young at I 
wai I held her reipontible. I didn't tee much of 

her. I don't know if you remember the trial ?" 

"Something of it," taid I. 
"The papert were full of it. I wat not allowed 
to attend, but, of courte, I got hold of all the papert. 
They taid that my father had got hold of blank ttock 
certificatet by corrupting young derki, and had then 
forged tignaturei to them and told them on the 
ttock market. He wat tentenced to Sing Sing for 
leven yeart. They took me to tee him before he 
wat tent away. He had aged twenty yeart. He 
watn't able to tay much to me." 

"Mn. Mantfield told me I mutt change my name, 
and tent me to a good tchool in Connecticut. She 
paid the billt. I wat pretty happy there, though 
thit thing wat alwayt hanging over my head. In the 
tummen I wat tent away to a boy't camp in the 
mountaini. Mrt. Manifield told me nobody wat 
allowed to tee my father or to write to him and I 
believed her. So it wat the tame to me at if he 
had died. 

"One day latt winter in tchool I received a letter 
tigned "Well-Wither," atking me to meet the writer 
at a certain tpot in the tchool woodt that afternoon. 
Naturally I wat excited by the myttery and all that. 
I wat tcared, too. But I went. I didn't tell any- 
body." 

"I found a queer cuttomer waiting for me. A 



k. 



Thieves' Wit 



357 



man about fifty with doic-cropped hiir. He told 
me right off that he was ju«t out of Sing Sing. Why 
hadn't I ever come to lee my dad, he asked. He 
•aid it was pitiful the way he pined for me." 

"I stammered out that I didn't know anybody 
could see him. He told me about the visiting days. 
'Anyhow you could have written,' he said." 
" 'He never wrote to «.e,' I said. 
*' 'Sure, doesn't he write to you every writing day I 
He has read me the letters. Elegant letters." 
" 'I never got them I' I said." 
•That's why I came,' he said. 'Dave said he 
thought that woman had come between you.' " 

"The old fellow told me how to address a letter 
to my father, and he gave me money to go to Sing 
Sing when I could. I had an allowance from Mrs. 
Mansfield, but not enough for that. I wrote to my 
father that night." 

"It was Easter before I had the chance to see my 
father. I made out to Mrs. Mansfield that the 
Khool closed a day later than it did, and I used that 
day to go to Sing Sing. My father was in the in- 
firmary. I scarcely recognised him. They let me 
stay all day. Even I could see that he was dying." 
"For the first time I heard the truth of the case. 
It was Mrs. Mansfield who had got the certificates 
out of the young clerks, and had brought them to 
my father to be fiUed in. When they were found out 
she carried on so, that he took the whole thing on 
hunself. He thought he might as weU, since he had 
to go to jail anyway, and he knew he would die there. 



25» 



Thieves' Wit 



Bcudes (he promiMd him to have me educated and 
looked after. He had no one elM to leave me with. 
At that time he Mill believed in her. 

"But in the prison he met men who knew about 
her of old. My father was not the first she had 
been the means of landing in jail. It was then my 
father began to be afraid for me, and managed to 
send me word. 

"He died in April. Mrs. Mansfield immediately 
took me out of school. She told me my father was 
dead, and that it w«s time I went to work. I think 
she must have learned by her spies that I had been 
to see my father, for she no longer took the trouble 
to put on a good face. Now it was, do this or that 
or it will be the worse for you. When I saw how all 
die other men gave in to her, I was afraid to resist. 
I hated her, but what could I do? I had no one to 
go to. I had no experience. I wasn't sure of my- 
•elf. The understanding up there is that Lorina 
could reach you wherever you went. And if you did 
anything to cross her, look out! She has spies 
everywhere!" 

"I wonder why she didn't turn you adrift alto- 
gether?" I said. 

"I think I am useful to them because I look hon- 
est," the boy said wretchedly. "I run errands for 
them, but I never know what it's all about." 

"Have you ever heard talk up there of a boss 
greater than Mrs. Mansfield?" I asked. 

He nodded. "But only vague ulk. I've never 
seen him." 



Thieves' Wit 



259 



"Doe* the have you watched?" I aiked. 

"No. She think* ihe ha* me where *he want* 
me. But if *he *u*pccted anything " 

"You niu*tn't come here again," I *aid. 

Hi* face fell ab*urdly. 

"Oh, I'm not kicking you out," I »aid .m.Img. 
I *baU keep m touch with you. Would vou like 
to *ee thi* woman go to jail ?" 

u- "^'?lil ' ^'.' *** "'"^' i""P'"« "P- Wo/d^ failed 

WeU, I m gomg to put her there," I said. "And 
you *hall help me. But we mutt be careful " 



25 

IN the meantime Lorina Mansfield, weary of the 
inaction I had forced on her, or persuaded per- 
haps that I had dropped the pursuit, boldly resumed 

her designs on Mrs. , 's diamond necklace. For 

convenience' sake I shall call this lady Mrs. Lever- 
ing. He real naihe is one to conjure with in 
America. 

Mr. Dunsany or "English" reported that he had 
been detailed to go to Newport on Saturday to spy 
on the lady, and what should he do about ic? The 
plucky gentleman who never hesitated to put him- 
self in danger, became uneasy when it was a ques- 
tion of actually committing a crime. 

We arranged a chat over the telephone, and I 
gave him the best reasons for going ahead with the 
scheme. We had so much to talk over that I told 
him I would go up to New England by a different 
route, and if he was not spied upon he could come to 
me at Providence early on Sunday and we could go 
over everything. All the time we had been working 
together we had never exchanged a word face to 
face in our natural characters. 

We succeeded in pulling off the meeting, Mr. 
Dunsany assured me he had not been followed. We 
laid out our plan of campaign. I convinced him 
that the quickest and surest way to land the whole 



Thieves' Wit 



261 



gang would be to aUow them, even to assist them, 
to carry out a robbery from start to finish. Lei 
them steal Mrs. Levering', jewels, I said, let them 
get^dean away with them. Wc'U return them 

"Suppose some one gets hurt," he said nervously. 
we will be on our guard. 

d^e a,e he would fee obliged to give her another 
necklace of equal value. This was a matter of 
$90,000. 

3^ T»"°^ *°'"8^ *° ^"^ ^"'^'^ on it." I said. 
^ What followed can best be told by Mr. Dunsany's 

Report of J. M. #15 

Newport. Sunday, July Ath. 
My patience was rewarded shortly before noon to- 
day by the s.ght of Mrs. Levering walking to the 

to r° "Ql°"!fT'"^ ^^ " «•"""* gentleman unknown 
tome. t»he did not notice me. of course. If I had' 
been m my own person I warrant she would not 
have passed me .0 indifiFerently. What marveUou* 
faculty IS It that enables a lady to know without look, 
mg at a man whether he is worth looking at? 

vJrJT '"••^'^'^ "y^'f t**" she was wearing her 
veritable diamonds. Foolish womani Whfn I 
sold them to her I warned her not to exhibit them 
« pubic. At the time there wa. a lot o* gp,^ 



262 



Thieves' Wit 



I 



i :i: 



about what Levering paid me for the neddace, and 
I suppose every thief in the country has it on his list. 
But Cora Levering was always feather-headed. 

I telegraphed to Lorina m the code we had agreed 
on, and had my dinner while I waited for her answer. 
It came presently, instructing me to meet her in a 
certain hotel in Providence to-morrow, two-thirty. 
To-morrow being a holiday, I am not expected at 
Ounsany's. This means that I have to put in a 
long, empty twenty-four hours here. The place is 
full of my friends "eating and drinking themselves 
black in the face, while I have to stay at a fourth-rate 
hotel. 

To-morrow night there Is going to be a great 
entertainment at Fernhurst, one of the palaces on 
the cliffs. 



J.M. 



#i6 



Newport, July 5/A, 9 P.M. 

All is set for the drama tocnight, and I am 
nervously awaiting my cue. Heaven knows what the 
not few hours may bring forth! When you read 
this it may be up to you to get me out of jail. If 
we pull it off all right I have no doubt the newspapers 
will say, as they always do, that tht robbery gave 
evidence of long and careful planning, whereas it 
was all fixed up in a few minutes. 

I went over to Providence to-day shortly before 
the hour set by Lorina, and found Foxy waiting 



Thieves* Wit 



263 



at the hotel she named. Lorina herself, he said, 
was in Newport looking over the ground, and would 
be back directly. It seems that hearing of the affair 
at Fernhurst they had determined to turn the trick 
the same night. 

Lorina came bringing a good-looking, welWressed 
young fellow whom she introduced to the crowd as 
Frank. He was evidently a youngster of the 
fashionable world, one cannot mistake the little ear- 
marks. He has a look of the family; one of 

the younger sons, maybe, whom drink and the devil 
have done for. At any rate, he is completely under 
Lorina's thumb like the rest. 

Lorina was playing the part of a traveller in 
books— religious books if you please I She dressed 
the business woman plain and handsome, and had 
engaged a private sitting-room for the day to show 
her samples. There was actually a whole trunk 
full of sample books. I suppose she passed us off 
as her agents or customers. 

She had us all in the sitting-room together. Be- 
sides Frank, Foxy and myself, there was a fourth 
man whom I recognised as her chauffeur. His name 
i» Jim. She proceeded to lay out her campaign in 
the most matter-of-fact way without wasting a word. 
It might have been the sales-manager instructing the 
drummers in the Fall line. Nobody seemed nervous 
except Frank, who was apparently new at the game. 
The entertainment at Fernhurst provided our op- 
portunity. It appeared that Frank was well ac- 
quainted with Mrs. Levering, and that by Lorina's 



264 



Thieves' Wit 



jn»truction$ he had been particularly cultivating her 
society of late. He was to be the decoy. Further- 
more, he drew for us with rather a shaky hand, a 
plan of the house and grounds at Femhurst, show- 
ing the location of roads, paths, benches, shrubbery, 
etc. Lorina used this plan in issuing her instruc- 
tions. 

..u'^ir"/"* " *° '"^" "* nine-thirty," she said, 
but all the guests will not have arrived until nearly 
midnight So we will fix on midnight to turn the 
trick, or as soon after as possible. We have decided 
on this bench that I have marked with a cross for 
the spot. Get its position well fixed in your mind, 
all of you. It is quite a way from the house you see, 
few, if any, of the dancers will go so far. It is 
off the main paths. It is near the street fence, but 
IS hidden from the street by this dense shrubbery 
behind it. 

"Mrs. Levering has promised Frank the first 
dance after she arrives. He will then make an en- 
pgement with her for another dance to fall just 
before midnight as near as he can figure it, and after 
dancing with her the second time will take her out 
to this bench. 

Foxy and English will already be in hiding in the 
shrubbery behind the bench. Foxy has an invitation 
to the affair, and he will go in evening dress and mix 
with the guests until he sees Frank dancing with 
Mrs. Levering the second time. He will then go 
out of the house and conceal himself in the shrub- 
bery. 



Thieves' Wit 



26s 



must be there by eleven to make sure. English 
wears his ordinary clothes, and slips in by the service 
entrance to the grounds, marlced on the plan here 
Once ms.de the gates he must make his way under 
cover to the shrubbery behind the bench. English 

Tr -^7 ''^u^'^ °':,"""* ^°' f °^ ^l-i^h will be 
provided There will be a mask in one side pocket, 
a cap m the other. As soon as you two meet. Fo« 
will put on the things. ' 

stmple. Frank is keeping Mrs. Levering in conver- 
sation on the bench. Foxy sneaks up behind with 
the nippers cuts the necklace, and tosses it back to 
li.nglish, who remains in the bushes. 

"The woman will scream, of course. Foxy will 
stand up and show himself, and run in this direction, 
that IS, towards the house. Frank will take after 

F„"L n" 7*l\ '"'^ *•"" «° '"^'^ *° the woman. 
Foxy will double around this shrubbery that con- 
ceals the stable entrance. As soon as he is out of 
sight of the woman he will throw off the cap, mask 
and coat, and go back to Mrs. Levering as one of 
the first attracted by her cries. If ,hc does not cry 
out, he can mix with the crowd in the house until he 
nas a chance to make a getaway 

Meanwhile, English lies quiet in the shrubbery 
until the excitement has passed out of the vicinity, 
rhen he slips out by the service gate, the same way 

sJt !!"- . ^."" '"'" ^' ^"'''"^ ^'^'^ *« ««• "bout 
five hundred feet beyond the service entrance, to- 



266 



Thieves' Wit 



owl train back to J^ew York T:l ' . '^ *'"' 

cn^lt" hrL"^' *^.lf ""T '^' *' "" •>" 



Thieves' Wit 



267 



"I used to be known as a runner. TheyTl think 
It funny I wasn't able to catch Foxy " 

"Catch him then," said Lorina coolly. "Struggle 
with him. He wiU throw you off. That wilHe! 
you out. won't it? Rehearse it now" "'""'" 

It was a grim kind of play. Everybody took it 

fa'^eLrrf r"^ ?"''' "" P'''"'^ to represent the 
fateful bench. Lonna and Frank took seats on it 

«pre«ntle '1? "' "^^ ""^^ ''" -" 

fnd told >7 T"' ^°"'"'^' ""'PP'^l ^h' «"ng 
and tossed .t back to me. His implement was a 

pair of heavy nail clippers such as manicure! use 

Then as Foxy made off, Frank flung himself upon 

h.m.^they struggled and Frank was thrown to 'he 

AH this was gone over again and again. Some 
buttons were tied on the piece of string so thati 
would carry when it was thrown back to me. Foxv's 
stage expenence proved serviceable. He acted as 
d.rec or. showmg Frank how to tackle him, and ho" 

of Ji r ri ''"'""« ^'"'''^^- Lorina's depiction 
of the startled woman was admirable. The whole 
scene would have been funny if it hadn't beln so 
gnm. xNone of them seemed to be aware of any 
hunaour m the proceedings but me. Jim. wSo Sd 
not take part m the scene, acted as critic. He stood 
off makmg suggestions. 
Finally, Lorina announced that it was only ten 

irank and Foxy might go off by themselves and 



Thieves' Wit 



268 

pnicticeiftheyfeltit„ece..ary. Wc .cattered T 

sr:'r::f ;f '"'*'' •" NcwpoAxt j 

It i. nn • .•?""' "" •«" ""y °f them .ince. 

together, and my teeth to chatter. 

J.M. 



26 

Report of J. M. No. 17 

WHPV I . Providence, i jjo A.M. 

unmntakably. Th,» was diKonccrting. I p,„ed 

Za 7t'\^''"^r^ ^'-o-g*' with thciTginuS eye. 
and I broke out in a gentle sweat all over. Prel 
ently however, I realised it was but their profet 
«onaI manner of looking at anybody who w.. t,^ 
well dressed, and I calmed down. 

It filled me with . kind of terror to think that 1 
n..ght be prevented from carrying out my paJt o 
the evening', entertainment. .o%ou will see I was 

tne block and prepared to try again. On my wav 
towards the service gate I had Se luck^o f^ !I 
with a crowd of waiters clearly bound for the .h„^ 

M irerrtt " -" '° "« - wifh\£r 

S;:;^.S^f--^^Herewasn:;2:S 

169 



270 



Thieves' Wit 



I had to wait over an hour for Foxy. It was not 
a pleasant time. Lorina's plan seemed perfect, but 
you never can tell. And my inexperience in this line 
was such that I didn't feel overmuch confidence in 
myself should an emergency arise. Not far behind 
me I could hear the steady procession of motors 
bringing guests to the party. In the distance I could 
hear the music. They had picked their spot well. 
In all that time no one passed that way. 

In the end Foxy's coming gave me a great start. 
Creeping through the bushes without the rustle of a 
leaf, he was beside me before I heard him coming. 
He was dressed in the height of fashion. I caught 
a gleam of a monocle dangling against his white 
waistcoat. I silently passed him over the coat I 
had brou^t, and standing in a little open space, he 
put it on together with the cap and mask. Then we 
crouched down side by side under the leaves, with the 
back of the bench in plain view before us. Foxy 
laid the nippers on the ground ready to his hand. 
We did not speak to each other. 

Bye and bye we heard voices approaching, and my 
poor heart set up a tremendous how-de-do. On the 
other hand something told me Foxy was enjoying it. 
Mrs. Levering and the young man called Frank came 
strolling dimly into view. I was nearly suffocating 
with excitement. 

"This is the place," Fra.nk said. 

"How cosy I" she sang. 

"Shall we sit down?" he suggested. 

"Let's I" said she. "I'll have a cigarette." 



Thieves' Wit 271 

.he had looked over her .houldcr .he would h.ve 
.een the g,„e ,.J„tly reflected fron, our whlJe f .«. 
I stole a look >t Foxy', ratlike profile. He had 
.hoved up the m.,k. Hi, teeth were bared. He 
wa. amused at the pro.pect of a little Kandalou. 
eamdropprng. Merciful Heaven. 1 what !! faceT 

two "on thTV'T f ' '""''" conversation of the 
two on the bench. It was merely .illy. Frank'. 

rS/"/"'""'i'«u. ' '"PP"" •»'' ..cribed tha 
fool ' ^" '"""«• '"' •>"• She i, a 

Foxy gave them a good while to their talk 
Frank no doubt wor.e. I at lea« could ,ee when 

until M ^" *° •"« *" ^""' ''« ''^ ""»d not. Not 
unt Mrs. Levenng said she must go back, but not 
really meanmg ,t yet, did Foxy pull down the mask 
and creep forward. I held my breath 

It seemed as if it were all accomplished in a sinele 
movement Foxy rose to his knees behind the 
woman, smpped the shining thing around her neck.-! 

drln il'- """ ''""« "' ""y •"«»• I mechanically 
dropped It m my pocket. ^ 

hUnA "^ «,^°* '"?,"• ^" *"*• « '"«' »he showed 
Mood. "My necklace I" .he gasped, jumping up 
hand to throat. "Gone I" . jumping up, 

pinl"o?r'''.' -'f, ?"'''"« ^'y °"» ''"'d the snap. 
P'ng of the frightful tension he had been under. 

the h!!!!'K * !T°" ''°'*'*'' '^""'^ "P f'*"" behind 
the bench, and headed diagonally across the path 



mxoeorf msowtion tbt cha*t 

(ANSI and ISO TEST CHART No. 2) 




mv^i 



1.6 



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^TJS Rochaattr. Naw York U609 USA 

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£^ (716) 28« - 5989 - fax 



272 



Thieves' Wit 



Another gasping cry, not loud, broke from the 
woman. "There he is I" 

Frank flung himself on the back of the runner, 
and they rolled over on the ground, all exactly as I 
had seen it rehearsed a dozen times in the hotel 
room. They sprang up, grappled, swayed and 
finally Frank was flung with apparently great vio- 
lence to the ground. Foxy disappeared. 

Frank struggled to his feet, seemingly hurt. He 
attempted to stagger in the direction the fugitive 
had taken, but Mrs. Levering clung to him. One 
may suppose he was not sorry to be prevented. 

At this moment the tragic-farce was interrupted 
by the entrance of an actor not on the bill. This 
was a man with an electric flash, a detective to all 
appearances. I suppose they had them posted about 
the grounds, and this man had heard the disturb- 
ance, slight though it was. The flash terrified me. 
I softly and precipitately retired under the leaves 
into the thickest of the shrubbery. 

"I have been robbed!" I heard Mrs. Levering 
gasp. "My diamond necklace! He came from 
there. He went that way." 

The detective threw his light around. Fortu- 
nately for me I had put a screen of leaves in front 
of me. I was not disposed to linger in the neigh- 
bourhood. I ran along close to the fence where 
there was a narrow open space. As I passed out of 
hearing, I heard others come running up. Excite- 
ment runs like electricity. I had no doubt that Foxy 
in immaculate evening dress, was among the first to 



Thieves' Wit 



273 



reach the scene. I took care to survey the service 
gate from a discreet distance before presenting my- 
self there. It was well that I did so. I saw that 
it was closed, and the two men still on guard. Not 
knowing at what instant an alarm might be raised 
behind me, I dared not apply to them with any tale 
however ingenious. Those diamonds were red hot 
in my pocket. On the other hand, I would have to 
retrace my steps nearly a quarter of a mile to reach 
the main entrance, and I was not suitably dressed to 
be seen there. I could not climb the fence at any 
point, for it was a smooth, high iron affair, more- 
over, the street outside was brightly lighted. I 
knew nothing about the cliff side of the grounds. 

For a moment or two I felt decidedly panicky. 
Before my mind's eye headlines in the next day's 
papers were vividly emblazoned: 

"WELL-KNOWN JEWELLER STEALS THE 
DIAMONDS HE SOLD" 

or something like that. Finally I recollected that 
the road to the service entrance of Femhurst ran 
quite close to the boundary of the next estate. I 
determined to try that way. 

To reach the boundary I was obliged to make a 
long detour. Still there were no sounds behind me 
to indicate that an alarm had been raised, at any 
rate a public alarm. The line between the two es- 
tates was marked by a thorn hedge and a wire fence. 
Choosing a dark spot I managed to struggle through 



274 



Thieves' Wit 



without receiving any serious damage. I finally 
gained the street through the service gate of this 
place. 

This brought me out beyond the point where Jim 
was to be stationed with the motor car, and I had to 
retrace my steps. The car was in the appointed 
spot. Jim was on the front seat with his head 
craned m the other direction whence he expected me 
I gave him a little signal. He was much troubled 
to see me come from that way thinking the plan had 
fallen through, but. was reassured no doubt by the 
fall of the necklace on the floor of his car. I was 
thankful to be rid of the cursed thing. 

There were several cars standing across the street, 
with their chauffeurs chatting together, and I was 
afraid of attracting attention to myself or to Jim by 
turning back at that moment. I kept on. I was 
startled half out of my wits when a motor patrol 
wagon full of police came flying up the street past 
me. It turned in at the service gate of Femhurst 
ahead. Since I was traveUing in that direction I 
had to keep on. 

A man stepped out as I approached. Seizing my 
shoulder he swung me half around so that the light 
fell on my face. "What are you doing here?" he 
demanded. 

I thought it was all up with me. "I just wanted 
to have a look at the swells," I stammered. 

Another man joined him. "Hold this guy," said 
the first. While the second man kept a hand twisted 
in my collar, the first one frisked me expeditiously 



Thieves' Wit 



275 



I had 'aken care, of course, not to have anything on 
me. But the side pocket of my coat was still hot 
from the diamonds. 

Finding nothing the man growled an order for 
my release. The second man spun me around, and 
propelled me towards town with a shove. "Get the 
H — : — out of here!" said he. 

And I did. 

J.M. 



27 



Report of J. M. No. i8 

INew York, July 6th, Midnight. 
HAVE just r-iturned from a celebration up at 
Lorina's house. Everybody made a clean get- 
away last night, and the diamonds are safe in 
Lorina's desk, so the gang made merry. The news- 
paper stories of the affair caused us the greatest 
amusement. The police, as you have seen, are very 
wide of the mark. Of us all, only Frank has fallen 
under suspicion. It appears that I was right in my 
guess as to his identity. The affair will ruin him 
socially, though it is not likely to lead to his arrest. 
I can't say that I feel sorry for the youth. Of all 
the parts in this sordid drama, Frank, the decoy 
played the most contemptible. 

In the general loosening of tongues to-night I have 
some rather interesting matter to report. When I 
arrived at the house all the gang except Lorina were 
in the dining-room. Spencer, the negro, told me 
she was up in the office, so I went up-stairs to make 
my report. The office door was open a crack, and 
as I was about to knock I heard Lorina's voice with- 
in. She was talking over the telephone. The first 
sound of her voice froze me where I stood in aston- 
ishment. The tone was that of a woman distracted 
by love and longinn;. Think of it, Lorina I 
276 



Thieves' Wit 



277 



I he«rd her say: "I'll do anything you tell me. 
But I want to see you. I must see you sometimes, 
dearie. What is the use of all this working and 
worrying, what am I doing it for if you never even 
let me see you ? I can't stand it. I can't go on. I 
won't stand it I" 

Do you wonder that I was amazed? 

There was a silence, and she went on in a broken, 
humbled tone: "No — I didn't mean that. I will 
obey you. You always know best. But don't be 
so hard on me. Please, dearie, please— ^-\" 

At this point Foxy came running up-stairs. I was 
caught rather awkwardly. 

"What are you doing here?" he demanded. 

"I came up-stairs to report to Mrs. Mansfield," I 
said, "but I don't like to disturb her. She seems to 
be having a private conversation." 

He listened at the door for a moment, then pulled 
me away. 

"Beat it!" said he. "She's talking to the boss. 
She'd kill us if she found us here." 

One other thing that I had heard Lorina say was : 
"Then I'll keep the coal here, until I hear from you 
again." 

"Coal" or "white coal" is their slang for dia- 
monds, so I suppose she meant the necklace. 

I returned down-stairs full of speculations regard- 
ing this wonderful and mysterious "boss." What 
kind of man must he be, thus to bring the imperious 
Lorina who commands us like slaves, to her knees? 
Frank was not present at the party in the dining- 



278 



Thieves' Wit 



room. He is not a regular member of the gang. 
Besides Foxy, Jumbo, Jim the chauffeur and myself, 
there were several of the younger fellows, but not 
Blondy, I am glad to say, for I should not like to 
see that nice boy drinking. Lorina appeared only 
once or twice and then but for a moment. The 
lady's gaiety was forced. However, she was liberal 
in her hospitality. Champagne flowed like water. 

Jumbo got very drunk and even Foxy drank 
enough to make him indiscreet. It was then that 
interesting ancient history was retold. It would 
astonish you to see Foxy at such moments. There 
is nothing about him of the dull, prosy bore that he 
ordinarily affects. 

Jumbo was toasting him with maudlin praise. 
"Drink to Foxy, fellows I" he cried. "There's the 
lad that brings home the bacon I The slickest, 
smoothest article of them alll" 

Foxy took it as no more than his due. 
"Say, Foxy," asked another admirer, "what was 
the hardest trick you ever turned?" 

Naturally I have to let others ask these questions. 

Curiosity on my part would be prejudicial to my 

health. I am on the qui vive for the replies, though. 

"Oh, six months ago, when I lifted an actress' 

pearls," drawled Foxy. 

Fancy how I pricked up my ears. 
"Tell us about it," said the same youngster. 
All the young ones sit at Foxy's feet, you under- 
stand. 

Foxy was nothing loath. "Elegant pearls," he 



Thieves* Wit 



279 



said reminiscently, "blue pearls, they called them, 
though I couldn't see the blue. But fine and choice I 
It was a long operation. I had to take a job acting 
in her company a couple of months beforehand. 
You see she kept the real pearls in a safety deposit 
box, and wore a phony string, which added to our 
difficulties. First I had to persuade her to wear 
the real pearls one night." 

"How did you do that?" somebody asked. 
"I egged on the leading man to make a bet with 
her that he could tell the real from the phony." 
"Was he in with you?" 

"No, indeed. Innocent as a lamb. He didn't 
know that I put the idea in his mind." 

"Foxy is a wonder to manage 1" put in Jumbo. 
"After the bet was made, we had the actress 
trailed every day until she went to the bank and 
got out her pearls. Then we knew she would weai 
them that night. She wore them in the first act. In 
the seco.nd she had on a nurse's costume, and had to 
leave them off. My next job was to get her maid out 
of the dressing-room during the second act. I man- 
aged this by having it gossiped around the company 
that the star was going to introduce some new busi- 
ness chat night, and so the maid went out to look on, 

see ? So I went in her dressing-room " 

"How did you get in ?" asked some one. 

"Walked in straight as if I had a good right to. 

There was no other way. I frisked the room, but 

could only find one string of pearls. You see, I 

counted on two, the phony and the real. I couldn't 



28o 



Thieves' Wit 



i 



tell which was which. I had arranged to have a 
fellow who was in with us, a pearl expert call on 
me between the acts. I saw him at the stage door, 
and showed him the string I had. He said they 
werj phony. So I had to do it all over. 

"During the third act, however, luck was with me. 
The actress' maid not having seen anything new in 
the second act left the dressing-room of her own ac 
cord to watch the scene. I went in again. This time 
I found the real thing in a pocket of the petticoat 
she had worn in the second act. I left the phony 
strmg in its place. 

"And they never got on to you!" said his ad- 
mirer. 

"Nahl That was where Enderby came in. He 
fixed the crime on the young leading man and broke 
up the show. Lord! I laughed. It let me out, 
too. I was sick of the fool business of acting every 
night. It wasn't till lately that Enderby got it in 
his head that he'd made a mistake. It's too late 
now. The pearls have been sold and the swae 
divided." * 

Jumbo took a hand in the tale at this point. "Let 
me tell you the joke about selling the pearls," said 
he. "Me and slim Foley set up an elegant office on 
Maiden Lane, with stenographers and office boys 
and all, everything swell. We were brokers in 
precious stones, see? We sent out decoy letters to 
the leading man Foxy mentioned, and I'lii blest if 
we didn't seU him the string of pearls back again. 



Thieves' Wit 



281 



Then he gave them to the actn ». , the fool, and she 
fired him and bust up the company." 

"But I don't understand," said the young fellow, 
"what did you want to sell them to him for? Risky 
business I should say." 

"Don't ask me," said Jumbo with a shrug. 
"Orders from higher up." 

This suggests a new line of thought, doesn't it? 

During one of Lorina's brief visits to the dining- 
room, she was pleased to commend me for my work 
last night. Sh; asked me to come to her down-town 
office to-morrow afternoon as soon as I finished 
work. I enclose the card she gave me with *-«r ad- 
dress.* Subtle irony, eh? 

To-morrow night I'll report on what happens 
there. 

J.M. 

J.M. #19 

New York, July yth. 
The number on Fifth avenue given me was not a 
great distance from Dunsany's and I was there by 
5:15 this afternoon. It is one of the older office 
buildings and is filled with the most respectable 
tenants, mostly firms engaged in some form of re- 
ligious business: publishers, mission boards, church 

•The card enclotcd by Mr. Dunsany read: 

THE EARNEST WORKERS PUBLISHING CO., 

No. — Fifth Av.-nue, Ne\» York. 
Mri. Lorina Manifield, Manager. 



282 



Thieves' Wit 



•uppliei, etc. It ii amusing to think of Lorina in 
luch company. 

Lorina't office, of course, was no whit less respec- 
table in appearance than a hundred others in the 
building. There was a respectable elderly steno- 
grapher, a subdued office boy, and Lorina herself 
playing her part of the saleswoman of religious 
literature in a starched shirt waist. She waved me 
to a seat beside her desit, and started right in to 
sell me a consignment of tracts. I conf :ss I was a 
bit da^ed by the scene. 

At five-thirty thi resper able stenographer and 
the subdued office-boy asked her humbly if she de- 
sired them any further, and upon receiving a nega- 
tive departed. 

When the door closed behind them Lorina yawned, 
stretched, and swore softlyr— to take the religious 
taste out of her mouth, I suppose. I laughed, but 
she didn't I'ke it. I have discovered that laughter 
makes these people uneasy. 

"Cut it out!" she said frowning. 
I apologised. 

"English," sht said, "Jumbo told me that you 
would be glad to get a little extra work as a diamond 
expert." 

I nodded, wondering what was coming next. 
"There's a friend of mine a jewel-broker next 
door," she went on, nodding towards the adjoining 
room. His business is so full of risks from thieves, 
you know, that he decided the best way to fool them 
would be to take an humble little office in this build- 



Thieves' Wit 



283 



ing without to much as an extra lock on the Hoor to 
give warning." 

Lorina only handed out this line of talk to save 
her face. I was not expected to belie\ r it. These 
people are never frank with each other, even when 
there's nothing to be gained by bluffing. It is only 
when the men have been drirking that things are 
called by their right names. 

"My friend needs an assistant, a diamond expert," 
Lorina continued. "For a couple of months now, 
he's been at his wit's end to find a man he could trust. 
Jumbo said you were just the man for t' job so I 
recommended you, and my friend told i.ic to bring 
you around." 

I nodded sagely to all this palaver. "Am I 
to give up my job at Dunsany's?" I asked, hoping 
that the answer would be in the affirmative. 

"No," she said. "That's a good thing, too. 
This new job will only take an hour or two in the 
evenings and on Saturday afternoons." 

She arose and tapped in a peculiar way on the 
door that led into the adjoining office. Some one 
got up within, and unlocked and opened it. Fortu- 
nately as a result of all that has happened during the 
past few weeks I have my nerves under strict control, 
for 1 got a shock. There stood Freer, the missing 
ex-head of my pearl department ! 

We were introduced. Freer saw nothing suspi- 
cious in my aspect. There was a lot of palaver 
.vhich I will not tire you with. The upshot of it 
was that I was engaged to assist my late assistant at 



284 



Thieves' Wit 



I 



il; 



a handsome salary. For the present I was to work 
from 5:15 to 6:30 every evening, as well as Satur- 
day afternoons, and Sunday mornings if necessary. 

I do not hke to work late at night," said Freer 
nervously. "It attracts attention." 

Freer undertook then and there to explain my 
dut.es. 'My work is with the pearls," he said, 
and the diamond end of the business has been ne- 
glected smce I lost my last assistant two months 
ago. 

"He died," remarked Lorina with a peculiar look 
at me. 

I got her meaning. 

Against one wall of Freer's office was a large 
letter file with drawers that pulled out, and a shutter 
to pull down over the whole at night, and lock. It 
was bu.lt entirely of steel as the modern custom is. 
Freer pulled out one of the drawers but instead of 
letters .nside, my amazed eyes beheld a heap of 
gleaming diamond jewelry. There were necklaces, 
dogHcollars lavalheres, pins, bracelets, rings. I 
wondered .f the thirty-odd remaining drawers were 
hlled w.th hke treasures, and made a breathless 
mental computation of their value-millions I It 
was a modern burlesque of the scene in Aladdin's 
cave I 

Freer, referring to the drawer he held open said: 

Iftese are cons.gnments of diamonds lately re- 

ce.ved, wh.ch I have not had the time to inventory. 

rou see each arhde is tagged with a number. You 

are to take them in numerical order, enter a care- 



Thieves' Wit 



285 



ful description and valuation in a journal, then de- 
mount the stones, weigh them, grade them and put 
them in stock." 

He opened several other drawers which contained 
princely treasures of unset diamonds lying on white 
cotton. They were carefully graded according to 
size, colour, quality. Here apparently is the loot of 
years past. I could not begin to give any estimate 
of its value. I have not seen the pearls yet. 

"The other part of your work," Freer went on, 
"will be to fill the orders for diamonds that are 
received." He showed me several order slips, evi- 
dently from the phraseology, made out by experi- 
enced jewellers, but bearing no shipping directions. 
"Am I to send these orders out?" I asked with 
a simple air. 

He shook his head. "Enter the orders in the or- 
der book, fill them from stock, and turn them over to 
me." 

"Mind you do not carry your work to the win- 
dow," put in Lorina sharply. 
I nodded. 

"Mind you do not leave anything about at night," 
added Freer, "no tools, no papers. The women 
come in here to clean after we are gone." 

He showed me where the tools of my trade were 
kept. In addition to everything else needful, in 
a locked cabinet there is a beautiful little electric 
crucible for melting down gold and platinum. 

I immediately set to work under the eyes of Lo- 
rina and Freer. 



286 



Thieves' Wit 



You can imagine in what excitement I now write 
this. Our work is donel-or almost done, for we 

riiU T ^" ^r ' ""' °" *'^'** mysterious and tcr- 
nble boss . For a moment I thought it might be 

mTJI M ''VM?"'"l'^'"'* *° ^""» " *e rest. 
uTr! I- ,'"L^''" ' ''*"' ^^ »''^" ""ke-if there 
» no shpl We must do our best of course to en- 
sure complete success, but I beg of you not to risk 
too far what we have in our grasp, in the hope of 
gettmg more I confess I am a little scared by the 
magnitude of the developments to-day. Do not 
wait too long before delivering your master stroke I 

JM. 



28 

'T'O resume my own part in these matters, you 

X can conceive what a great responsibility de- 
volved upon me in the light of these two last re- 
ports. I did not have to have Mr. Dunsany re- 

T J"f/' ?• J '"" ^^' " P'^'y"- '■" => <^^ose game 
who holds the best card. The question was when 
to play ,t One may easily hold one's trumps too 
long Still I could not bear to show my hand with- 
out the assurance of taking the king, i. e., the "boss." 
5>o 1 still held off, though the tension was frightful 
particularly on poor Dunsany. In every subsequent 
report he begged me to strike, and take our chance 
of getting our man through the disclosures sure to 
be made in the general crash. There was more up 
on this game than cards were ever played for 

In the meantime I was straining every nerve to 
pick up a due to the "boss." I knew that we must 
get him in the end if we could hold off long enough 
1 arranged a meeting with the boy Blondy, and 
cross-examined him for hours. The poor youn«ter 
was only too anxious to teU me what he knewrbut 
he could not help me. 

tn^lh'''^ th« Lorina never sent any of the men 
to the boss. All communications between them were 
made without the aid of a third party. Some of 
the men, he said, affected to believe that the boss 
aSr 



288 



Thieves' Wit 



was a myth invented by Lorina to keep them in awe. 
1 had, however, good reason in my reports to know 
that the boss was a real man. 

I put the most skilful :voman operative I could 

frTh' °«" L"""'''" t"il- It appeared, however, 
from her first report that Lorina was instantly aware 
of bemg watched and fooled the operative at her 
pleasure. Thus she became a danger to me instead 
of a help, smce Lorina with her infernal cleverness 
might very easily have found a way to intercept our 
commun.cat,ons. Sb I discharged the operative two 
days after I hired her. 

In justice to Mr. Dunsany, who hourly ran such 
a terrible mk, I now took the police into my con- 
fidence. The chief of the detective bureau at this 
time was Lanman, a man I had ah.ays respected 
for his contempt of spectacular methods and his 
strong sense. I went to see him. 

He did not know me, of course. He listened to 
my story with an incredulous grin. He has an as- 
pect as grim and forbidding as a granite cliff. But 
as 1 piled up my evidence, and read from Mr. Dun- 
sany s report, I shook the cliff. I had the satisfac 
tion of seeing the granite betray excitement. 

When I was dene he was convinced. He was 
frankly envious of my hick in obtaining such a case 
and of my success with it, but he showed a disposi- 
tion to play absolutely fair. I had been afraid that 

Lanman agreed that it was best to hold" off for a 



Thieves' Wit 



289 



day or two longer in the hope of getting the "boss." 

In the meantime he secured a room at # Fifth 

avenue on the same floor where Lorina had her of- 
fices, and there every day during the hours while 
Mr. Dunsany was at work, waited six men within 
call. We next secured quarters in the little hotel 
three doors from Lorina's house, and every night 
ten of Lanman's mqn were domiciled there. Signals 
were agreed on in case of need. 

Matters stood thus at the end of the week whose 
beginning had witnessed the Newport robbery. On 
Friday morning Irma Ham^rton came to town again. 
I witnessed her arrival in the lobby of the Rotter- 
dam, which you will remember was her hotel before 
it had been mine. Every cne sat up and stared. 
She was as lovely as only herself, but I thought, 
looked harassed. Mount was attending her like 
a shadow, smoother, more elegant and more com- 
placent than ever. 

With a fanciful, sentimental feeling I had engaged 
rooms on the same floor of the hotel as Irma's. Her 
suite '.as rented by the year. During the morning 
as I went to and fro in the corridor of the eleventh 
floor, I could not help but notice an unusual stir in 
the neighbourhood of Irma's rooms. Messengers 
were flying, packages arriving, and the switchboard 
busy. 

There is a telephone switchboard on each floor of 
the Rotterdam, opposite the elevators. In addition 
to answering the calls, the operator is supposed to 
keep an eye on things generally. While I was wait- 



290 



Thieves' Wit 



ing for the elevator I asked the girl on our floor 
w*at was the cause of the excitement. She said she 
didn't know, but said it with a simper and a toss 
of the head that added to my uneasiness. Down- 
stairs I asked the clerk with whom I was on friendly 
terms, but with no better success. 

While I was hanging around the lobby, Irma and 
Mount came down. They took a taxi at the door. 
FoUowmg a sudden impulse I engaged the next in 
me, and ordered the driver to follow them. They 
led me through the maze of down-town traffic direct 
to the Municipal Building. They disappeared in 
the bureau of Marriage Licenses, and my worst 
fears were confirmed. 

This time I determined to act without consulting 
my passionate, headstrong friend. I hastened back 
to the hotel. I had evidence that the ceremony was 
to be performed there, most likely the same after- 
noon. I wrote Irma a ,iofe begging her to see me 
privately on a matter of the greatest importance. 
1 signed it with my assumed name Boardman, but I 
had worded it in such a way that she would know 
It was from me. Moreover she knew my hand- 
wntmg. I sent it to her room in advance of her 
return. There was a chance of course that some 
one else might open it, but I knew she made a general 
practice of opening her own letters. 

A little before two o'clock, I got a summons and 
hastened to her suite. She started back dubiously 
at the sight of me, but I soon identifie : myself. She 



Thieves' Wit 



291 



was alone. The room was filled with orange blos- 
soms. The scent sickened me. 
"V/here is Mr. Mount?" I asked. 
"I sent him away for an hour," she answered, 
blushing. 

"Are we quite alone?" 

"Bella and Marie are in my bedroom. That is 
two rooms away." 

Bella was Mrs. Bleecker; Marie her maid. 
"Laying out your wedding-dress, I suppose," 
said I. 

She started and blushed deeply. "You know?" 
she murmured. 
"Is it a secret?" 

"Not from you. I didn't know where to reach 
you by phone." 

There was a somewhat painful silence. I did not 
feel inclined to make things easy for her. 

"Aren't you — aren't you going to congratulate 
me ?" she murmured at last. 
"No," I said bluntly. 

She looked at me full of surprise and pain, like a 
hurt child, but I was hurt, too, and impenitent. 

"Oh, Irma, how could you?" I cried at last. It 
was the first time I had ever addressed her so. At 
the moment neither of us noticed it. 

My question confused her. "I — I don't know," 
was her strange answer. 

Presently she recovered herself somewhat. "Why 
shouldn't I?" she demanded, showing fight. 



H 



I 



i 



292 



Thieves' Wit 



I shrugged. "I don't know. I have no rea.on.. 
r ou should be guided by your instinct." 

.'.'J?* '* ^°'^ '° '"'•" *•"' "'<1 defiantly. 
Naturally, he sees his interest." 
I can't remember all that was said on both sides 
Ihe conversation was sufficiently painful. She was 

"°'^l J-V "': ^'"""y "''' •"=«»" t° tumble. 

Why did you leave me ?" she faltered. "I asked 
you to help me. You have avoided me all these 
weeks. I needed you. It's cruel and useless for 

you to come now, when it is too late and— and " 

I have been working for you I" I cried. "I 
thought I could trust your instinct." 

"I had no intention of marrying at first," she 

WK ^-7?" ""^ ^ ^^'^^ "8° ^'^^ ^" coming. 
Why didn t you speak t.^en if you had anything to 
say. It's too late now." 

''It's never too late if you have a doubt," I cried. 
But he—Alfred will be here at four," she stam- 

""t /i" clergyman— and my friends " 

Let Alfred go away again," I said coolly. 
Her eyes widened like a frightened child's "I 
dare not I" she whispered. "You don't know I He 
is a terrible man!" 

"I'll back you up," I said. 

PlZet.""'" "■""•" "'""'■°" """"" 

I took a new tack. 

"Why don't you ask me the result of my work 
the last few weeks?" I asked. 

"What do you mean?" 



Thieves' Wit 



293 



I had brought for the purpose, that report of 
Mr. Dunsany's in which Foxy had told how the theft 
of Irma's pearls had been accomplished. I ex- 
plained to Irma how this report had been secured, 
and then I read it to her. Joy and horror strug- 
gled together in her face. 

"You knew this long ago!" she cried accusingly. 
"Why didn't you tell me before?" 

"Roland forbade it. I am breaking my word to 
him in telling you now." 

"He no longer cares then what I think 1" 

I shrugged. 

She walked up and down the room like one dis- 
traught. 

"Knowing that Roland is innocent would you dare 
to marry Mount?" I asked. 

"It is too latel" she cried. 

At this moment we were warned by a sound in the 
next room to pull ourselves together. The door 
opened and Mrs. Bleecker's fawning countenance 
appeared in the opening. 

"Oh, I beg your pardon," she said, cringing. "I 
didn't know you were still engaged." She did not 
withdraw, however, but favoured me with a good, 
long stare. 

I never saw the gentle Irma so angry. "Leave the 
room I" she commanded. "I told you I was not to 
be disturbed!" 

If she had always taken the same tone with that 
woman it would have been better for her. Mrs. 
Bleecker precipitately retired. 



i i| 



Til 



294 



Thieves* Wit 



Irma continued to pace the floor. "What shall I 
do?" she murmured, twisting her hands together. 
"I have not the strength to face him out." 

"Don't try," I suggested. 

"What J 3 you mean?" 

"Beat it," I said in homely slang. 

A gleam of lisjht, of miwhief appeared in her tor- 
tured face. "But how?— where? Will you go with 
me ?" she cried breathlessly. "What will I do about 
the women here? What explanation shall I make?" 

"One thing at a timel" I protested. "Make no 
explanation. You are your own mistress. If you 
like you can leave Alfred a note saying you have 
changed your mind. As to the women — , — " 

"I can trust Marie." 

"Very well. Send Mrs. Bleecker out on an er- 
rand. No trouble to invent an errand at this junc- 
ture. You can be gone when she returns." 

"Will you come with me ?" 

I shook my head. "Matters arc rapidly ap- 
proaching a crisis," I said. "I must stay on the job." 
"But where will I go?" 

"That's up to you. I can only offer a subiks- 
tion " "* 

"Yes I Yes I Don't tease me." 

"You have a difficult time ahead of you. I think 
you need a man's support." 

A crimson tide swept up from her neck. 

"I would put on my oldest and plainest suit," I 
went on wickedly, "and go register at some quiet 
little hotel, the last place they would think of look- 



Thieves' Wit 



295 



ing for you. I will give you the name of luch a 
place. At fi\ <.-i.iirty thii afternoon I would go to 
a certain horrible cheap little restaurant known as 
the American cafe, which ii on Third avenue near 
Sixteenth street. Half-past five remember, and jui; 
see what happens." 

"If you would only come with me — I mean as far 
as the door," she murmured in confusion. 

"Too risky," I said. "Mind I do not guarantee 
anything in any event. It's up to you. A certain 
young friend of ours has the pride of Lucifer, and 
you have made a ghastly wound in it. You will have 
to humble yourself shockingly." 

In her present mood I saw she was quite ready 
to do that. 

"This is what I'm counting on," I went on. "Pride 
is pretty poor fare. Let him act as high and mighty 
as he likes, he's really starving for all that makes 
life worth living. The unexpected sight of you 
ought to be like a feast to his eyes. I'm hoping he'll 
fall to, before his damnable pride has a chance to 
bring up reserves. One thing more. If anything 
prevents him from supping there as usual, he lives 
at # — East Seventeenth street." 

"Are you sure he loves me still?" she whispered. 

"Not at all sure," I said coolly. "You'll have to 
go and find out. If you've lost him, you've lost a 
lover that was worth a woman's while." 






29 

/k Ilf ^/i."* *t'" l""f "'^'y °« °' 'he Rotter, 
her plam black dre.. .„d mode.t hat than in «U her 
finery), I went back to my own roomi in the hotel. 
I wa. expecting a telephone report from a man 
whom I had lent to pick up what he could at the 
garage where Lorina itored her car. Meanwhile 
I gave myse.f up to the joy of picturing Mr.. Bleeck- 

ll'irZt"' '^^ IT""^ ''°'" ^" hypothetical 
errand, and Mount s black rage when he dropped in 

b' ilr i\^". '"f"''* ""^ '"""'' himself minu. a 
cITa J i ''^'5" iuspected that Mount con- 
cealed tigensh tendcnciei under his too-smooth ex- 
tenor. 

th^L^nf ^^ ">y telephone did ring, but it was not 
*e man I expected. An agitated young voice haUed 
me oyer the wire, which I had some difficulty in rec 
ogTiising as Blondy's. He was so excited I could 
not make head or tail of hi, message. When I got 
him straightened out it ran something like thisf 

I have just been at Mrs. Mansfield's office. I 
mean the down-town office. Sh: told me last night 

^ZTJI^V f':.^^ ' P''^'«'' '° he taken to 
■Tu V f "°*'l Madagascar. I was sitting be- 
side her desk and she was writing a letter to go with 
the package, when the telephone beU rang. She 
J96 



Thieves' Wit 



297 



Icnowi how to talk over the telephone without giv- 
ing anything away. All the laid was 'ye»' and 'no' 
and 'repeat that," but I taw that it wat important be- 
cause her face changed and her eyei glittered. When 
she looks like that it means danger. 

"She was talking to a woman called Bella. 

"She made some notes on a pad. As soon as she 
rang off she jumped up. She said she was called 
out and told me I needn't wait because she wouldn't 
send the package until to morrow. When she 
t ned to get her hat I managed to tatch a glimpse 
of the notes she had put down. She had written : 

"Elegantly-dressed man of fifty. 

Silvery toupee, waxed moustache, pale face. 

Brown suit, waistcoat edged "vith white. 

White spats, white sloves. 

Expensive Panama hat, fancy band green and red. 

Koora 1104." 

"This is your description, and this is the number 
of your room. I was scared when I saw the expres- 
sion of her face. She sent me home. She left at 
the same time, and took a taxi at the door. She 
carries her gun in a kind of pocket in her skirt. Look 
out for her I" 

"I get y.u, old boyl" I cried. "You've done me 
a good turn and I shan't forget it. Don't you 
worry." 

I hung up the receiver, and did a little thinking. 
I was struck by the name of the woman who had 
called Lorina up, Bella. It is not a very common 



298 



Thieves' Wit 



name. It was Mrs. Bleecker's name. Was this a 
new thread in my extraordinary tangle? 

It was decidedly awkward to have my disguise 
laid bare just at ihis moment. However, fore- 
warned is forearmed. I set about putting my affairs 
in order. I did not know whether Lorina would 
visit the Rotterdam or not, but I was sure she would 
not do so without making her usual careful arrange- 
ments, and not probably, without disguising herself, 
all of which would take time. I gave myself an 
hour, anyway. 

I gathered my papers together, and despatched 

those of them I valued to Dr. , who had been 

so good to me already. I wrote notes to Mr. Dun- 
sany, Blondy and other agents instructing them to 
send their reports in the care of Oscar Nilson until 
they heard from me again. All the beautiful sar- 
torial effects I had to leave behind me. Maybe I 
could redeem them later if they were not sold by 
the hotel to pay my bill. 

It was close upon four and I supposed the wed- 
ding-guests were gathering, when my telephone sum- 
moned me again. 

"Miss Sadie Farrell is calling," said the voice at 
the other end. 

My heart jumped, but simultaneously Caution 
held up a warning finger. "One moment," I an- 
swered. 

I did some rapid thinking. I did not keep the 
girl waiting an appreciable moment, but in that time 
I thought a whole chapter, as one may do in a crisis. 



Thieves' Wit 



299 



Not Sadie I Better sense instantly told me she 
would never come to my hotel. She had a more ex- 
alted notion of what was due her. Lorina, of 
course. She had used the most obvious expedient of 
reaching my rooms. I had three alternatives: 

(a) To deny myself to her. But in that case I 
would virtually be besieged in the hotel. 

(b) To see her down-stairs. She would hardly 
take a shot at me in the crowded lobby — ^but she 
might very well have some half-crazed youth there 
to do it for her. 

(c) To have her up-stairs, where she could not 
pass any signals outside. I had two rooms 

"Please have Miss Farrell come up-stairs," I said 
over the phone. 

I had one of the best suites at the Rotterdam, a 
coiner room which was my parlour, and a bedroom. 
I put the key to the parlour door in my pocket, re- 
tired into the bedroom, and locked the communicat- 
ing door. Presently I heard the bell-boy's knock 
on the parlour door. 

"Come in 1" I sang out. 

Through the door I heard the sounds of two peo- 
ple entering my parlour. 

"Hello, Sadie I" I cried. "Make yourself at 
home. I'll be dressed in a jiffy I" 

An indistinguishable murmur answered me. This 
was certainly not my Sadie. 

The bell-boy went out, and I heard him retiring 
down the hall. I gave him time to get out of the 
way, then I slipped out of the bedroom into the hall. 



I 



iil 



300 



Thieves' Wit 



key to the other room in hand. I inserted it ever 
so idftly in the parlour door, and turned it. But 
she heard 1 She rushed to the door and shook it. 
By that time I was around the corner of the cor- 
ridor. 

The telephone girl looked at me somewhat curi- 
ously as I pressed the elevator button, but did not 
quite like to question me. She knew, of course, that 
a caller had just been shown into my room. 
"I'll be back in a minute," I said carelessly. 
Just then I saw the number of my room 1104 dis- 
played on the switthboard. Lorina had rushed to 
the phone. 

"Is there a drugstore in the hotel?" I asked the 
girl at random, to distract her attention. 

"No, sir. There is one opposite the Thirty- 
fourth street entrance." 

The elevator was approaching my floor. I 
needed one more second to make my getaway. "Is 
it a reliable place?" I asked. 

'Conway's," she said, holding the plug ready in 
her hand, "one of the largest in town." 

The elevator door was now open, and I stepped 
aboard. The operator shoved the plug in, and an- 
swered the call. I was carried down. 

I could not tell, of course, what form I^rina's ap- 
peal for help would take. In case she might tele- 
phone to have me intercepted in the lobby, I took 
the precaution to get off at the mezzanine floor. I 
passed around the gallery to the other side of the 
building, and gained the street without interference. 



Thieves' Wit 



301 



So there I was safe, but once more homeless. 

A gaily-dressed couple left the hotel immediately 
in front of me. The woman was talking rather ex- 
citedly. Reaching the pavement I saw that the 
talker was Miss Beulah Maddox, late of Irma's 
company. Of coarse I No difficulty in guessing what 
she was excited about. They turned West on 
Thirty-fourth street. I was bound in the same 
direction. 1 heard her say: 

"Of course nobody believes she's sick. What can 
be the matter?" 

"They've had a row I suppose," replied her com- 
panion. 

Half a dozen steps farther along, they met an- 
other couple likewise gloriously arrayed. I did not 
know these two, but it required little perspicacity to 
guess that they too belonged to the profession. 
Miss Maddox greeted them with a squeal of excite- 
ment. 

"Oh, my dears/" 

It was risky, but I could not forbear stopping a 
moment to listen. I made out to be looking for a 
taxi. 

^^ "What do you thinkf" cried Miss Maddox. 
"There's no use your going any farther! There 
iSii t going to be any wedding I" 

"Why?" 

"Nobody knows. Another extraordinary caprice 
of Irma's 1 Everybody is told at the desk that she 
IS ill, and the ceremony postponed, but of course 
that's only an excuse. I had a glimpse of Mr. 



} :, 
I* 



302 



Thieves' Wit 



Mount and he looked simply furious, my dear I" 

And so on I And so on ! A taxi drew up and I 
jumped in. 

I had myself taken to Oscar's shop, and in one 
of the little cubicles, the distinguishing marks of the 
elegant Mr. Boardman, late of the Rotterdam, were 
removed. It would nave been fun to adopt another 
swell makeup and go back to the Rotterdam to see 
what was happening, but it was too risky. It was 
safer for me to play an humble character now. 

Oscar provided me with a longish mop of black 
hair, and a pair of heavy black eye-brows. He went 
out himself to get me the rough clothes I needed. 
An hour after I had gone into his shop I came out 
again, a typical representative of tough young New 
York. The Hudson Dusters would not have re- 
jected me. 

It was now nearly half-past five. The hands of 
the clock reminded me of the meeting that I had 
arranged to bring about at that hour. My heart 
was very keen for the success of *his meeting, yet I 
was full of uncomfortable doubts. Now that I had 
changed my character I felt that I might safely go 
and see how things turned out, so I turned my steps 
in the direction of the American cafe on Third 
avenue. 

When I got there Roland was already eating his 
supper. No sign of Irma yet. The American is 
one of those older lunchrooms where they have 
long mahogany tables each decorated with a row of 
sugar bowls and sauce bottles with squirt tops. In 



Thieves' Wit 



303 



such places one of the squirt tops still gives "pepper 
sauce" though I never saw anybody use it. There 
was a double row of long tables with a lane between. 
Roland had the wall seat of the first table on the 
right. His shorthand book was propped against a 
vinegar bottle, and he studied it while he fed himself. 

I took a seat two removes from him on the same 
side of the table. He paid no attention to me. I 
took this distance, because if Irma came I didn't 
want to hear too much. No one was likely to sit 
between us, so long as there were whole tables 
vacant. It was a little early for the supper hour, 
and there were few in the place. 

I ordered the piece de resistance of such places, 
viz.: a plate of beef stew. Roland was almost 
through his supper, and I wondered apprehensively 
if Irma meant to exercise her woman's prerogative 
of being late. Perhaps her nerve had failed her, 
and she would not come. She had burned her 
bridges though. What else could she do but come ? 
From time to time I glanced in my young friend's 
face. It was pale and drawn. Verily, I thought, 
his infernal pride was sapping his youth. 

Then I saw Irma an'^ my heart set up a great 
beating. It's a risky ^ning to presume to play 
Providence to a pair of young souls, one of whom is 
as explosive as guncotton. What was going to hap- 
pen? Irma was hovering about outside. She 
glanced in the place nervously. Unfortunately there 
was no other woman eating there at the moment, 
though women did come to the place. Irma walked 



' I 



304 



Thieves' Wit 



on. Had she given up? My heart sunk. No, 
presently she came strolling back. She meant to 
wait for him outside. I approved her good sense. 
Plainly dressed though she was, her entrance into 
that phce would have created a sensation. 

Roland, all unconscious of what was in store, got 
up, slipped the book in his pocket, paid his score 
with an abstracted air, and went out. He never 
looked at me. His brain was full of shorthand 
symbols. 

I followed him at once, though I had but started 
my supper. Nobody cared so long as I paid. 

I was just in time to see them come face to face 
on the pavement outside. 

"Roland I" she whispered with the loveliest smile 
surely that ever bedecked the human countenance; 
wistful, supplicating and tender. 

He started back as if he had been shot, and gazed 
at her with a kind of horror. He did not speak. I 
expect he could not. Passers-by stared at them curi- 
ously. Irma lowered her head, and slipping her 
hand inside his arm with affecting confidence, drew 
him forward away from the stares. Still he did not 
speak. He was oblivious to the passers-by, and to 
everything else but her. He gazed at her like a 
man in a trance, his dark eyes full of a passionate 
hunger. She only spoke once more. Raising her 
eyes to his she moved her lips. I could read them. 
"I love you," she wnispered. 
His lips began to tremble. Where were all his 
proud vows then? 



Thieves' Wit 305 

She drew him around the corner into the quieter 
side street. She was weeping now. When she 
looked at him I could see the bright drops. They 
were more potent than any words she could have 
spoken. Roland suddenly came to life. He 
stopped short, flung an arm around her, turned up 
her face and kissed her mouth, careless if all New 
I ork saw. 
So that was all right. 

The sight induced me to take the first train out 
to AmityviUe where I might dine and spend the 
evening with my dear girl. We were much mystified 
upon receiving a telegram during the evening signed 
by my name. To my astonishment I saw English 
and Freer on the train returning from AmityviUe. 
The explanation of aU this was forthcoming in the 
morning. 



30 

NEXT morning as soon as Oscar opened his 
shop, I was on hand to get my mail. I found 
that big things had happened during the night. 

Report of J. M. No. 23 

Loritufs House 

Saturday, July nth, 3 A.M. 

It is unfortunate that this should be the f^.st 
night of our association that we are out of touch 
with each other. I sent home an hour ago to see 
if there was any word from you. I got your letter, 
but that only gives me the address of the wig-maker's 
shop which is, of course, closed until morning. I 
have to remain on watch here, and I cannot make 
the hours pass better than by writing you an account 
of all that has happened. It will save time when 
we meet. 

I have done the best I could. I followed your 
instructions to the letter. I do not see how I could 
have acted differently. I hope you will not blame 
me. 

As soon as I was through work at Dunsany's this 
afternoon, I went down to No. — Fifth avenue as 
usual, to continue my inventory of the gang's dia- 
monds. Freer is always there when I am, of course. 
306 



Thieves' Wit 



307 



He's not a bad sort of fellow. There's something 
sorrowful about him. I think he would prefer on 
the whole to lead an honest life. He speaks of hav- 
ing an expensive family to keep. 

As soon as Lorina's stenographer and office boy 
went home, she came into our room as she usually 
does. This evening she was in a state of excite- 
ment. She had evidently been holding herself in 
some time. The air was lurid with the fire and 
brimstone she used in apostrophising you. If hate 
could be sent by wireless you'd be dead this minute, 
my friend. 

I gathered she had learned during the day 
that you were at the Rotterdam. But when she 
went around there with her silencer, you turned the 
tables on her somehow and not only ^'ot away again, 
out left her in a very humiliating position. Bully 
for you I 

"He's slipped through my fingers for the mo- 
ment 1" she went on, "but I've got a line on his girl 
again. I'll fix her to-night." 

My heart went duwn at this piece of news. 

"She's at a sanatorium at Amityville," Lorina 
went on. "I got a servant into the house, and I 
know her habits. I won't take any chances this 
time. This is a job for you, English." 

Fancy my feelings I I had no time to think. Yet 
I had to say something, and quickly, too. I said 
the natural thing. 

"I won't do it 1" I cried. "I am working for you 
night and day as it is, good work, tool I didn't 



Hi 



3o8 



Thieves' Wit 



engage for murder — a woman too. I won't do it! 
I'm done with you all I" 
And I flung down my tools. 
Lorina took this outburst calmly. She is accus- 
tomed to it no doubt. She merely looked at Freer, 
and he got between me and the door. 

"Don't be simple-minded, English," she said con- 
temptuously. "This is no child's game, that you 
can refuse to play if you don't like the rules. You're 
in it for bad or for worse like the rest of us. And 
I have the means of enforcing my orders I" 

"Not that I" I begged. 

"It was agreed long ago that this woman and this 
man have got to be put out of the way. You're 
the only one of the crowd that hasn't been tested 
out, and the other boys are complaining. Here's 
your chance to make good. You understand there's 
no afternative. You're a valuable man to us. 
but 1" 

I can give you no idea of the effect with which she 
said this. She is a terrible woman. Her eyes were 
like points of ice. Meanwhile I was thinking hard. 
If I did not go, she would undoubtedly find some one 
else. I might be prevented from warning you. I 
could not warn iadie direct, because you had never 
given me her address. In the end I agreed. 

Lorina smiled on me. 

"What are my instructions?" I asked. 

"The girl is at Dr. 's sanatorium," sai4 

Lorina. "You should not get out there before dark, 
so the seven-thirty train will be the best. There is a 



Thieves' Wit 



309 



twin back from Amityville a little after ten which 
will land you in town before midniijht." 

She then told me how to rer.ch the sanatorium, 
and described the layout of the grounds. 

"My report says that the Farrell girl keeps close 
to the house during the day," she went on, "and 
walks out at night. Her favourite spot is a pool at 
the bottom of the lawn, which is surrounded by 
juniper trees. There is a bench at the southerly 
side of the pool that she always visits. It is near 
the public road, and will be no trouble for you to 
reach. The thick growth of young trees makes 
plenty of cover." 

"What am I to do when she comes?" I asked. 

Lorina turned her back on me a moment. When 

she faced around she handed me an automatic pistol 

with a curious cylinder affixed to the end of the 

barrel. 

"Use this," she said. "It makes no sound." 
I slipped it in my pocket. 
"Freer will go with you," said Lorina. 
This seemed fatal to my hopes — I had to keep 
command of my face though. I made believe it 
was a matter of indifference. To give Freer credit, 
he did not appear to relish the assignment, but he 
dared not object either. 

"As soon as you get back you will both come direct 
to my house," said Lorina. 
Such were our in'tructions. 
We went to take the seven-thirty train as ordered. 
As Freer never left my side I had no opportunity to 



310 



Thieves' Wit 



nil you up. I know now that you weren't at the 
hotel anyway. In the station Freer went to buy the 
ticketi. I waited on a bench in plain light of him. 
Next to me sat a nice, leniible looking girl, and I 
had an inspiration. 

"Will you send a telegram for me?" I asked 
smiling at her. 

Naturally she was somewhat taken aback. 
"What do you mean?" she asked. 

"Don't look so surprised," I said, smiling still. 
"There's a man watching me. He mustn't know. 
It's terribly important — a question of a life, maybe." 

I was lucky in my girl. She had an adventurous 
spirit. She smiled back. "Who to?" she asked 

"Have you got a good memory?" 

"First-rate." 

"Miss Farrell, care Doctor 's Sanatorium, 

il^mityville." 

"I have it." 

"Just say : 'Do not leave the house to-night* " 

"Right. Signature?" 

" 'B. Enderby.' You'll find the money to pay for 
it on the seat when I get up." 

Freer, having secured the tickets, now came to- 
wards us. I met him half way. He look at me 
hard. 

"I made a friend," I said, grinning as men do. 

"Humph I" he said sourly. "I shouldn't think 
you'd be in the humour now." 

I went out to the train with him, giving an amour- 
ous bacKward glance towards the girl. 



Thieves' Wit 



3" 



An hour and a half later we were crouching among 

the young juniper trees at the edge of Dr. 's 

pond. I was reminded of that other night in New- 
port. Certainly I have led a full life this past week. 
Once more I waited with my heart in my throat 
fancying that I heard her approach in all the little 
sounds of night. Freer was no happier than I, I 
believe. While we waited in the dark I quietly un- 
loaded the magazine of the pistol to guard against 
accidents. 

Once we did hear steps approaching along one of 
the paths, and held our breaths. But they passed 
in another direction. If she had come my plan was 
to secure Freer with her assistance, if she were not 
too frightened. But she did not come. 

Freer had a tiny electric flash with which he con- 
sulted^his watch from time to time. He said at last : 

"We can just make the train. It's the only train 
to-night." 

"Come on," I said. "It isn't our fault if she 
didn't come." 

"Thank God she didn't I" he said involuntarily. 

I shook hands with him. He was a traitor to me, 
and a thief, but I forgot it at the moment. 

The trip home was without incident. We got up 
to Lorina's shortly after midnight. The whole gang 
was there: Foxy, Jumbo, Jim, Blondy, several of 
the young fellows, a dozen in all besides Freer and 
They were all gambling in the dining-room. 



me. 



Lorina jumped up at the sight of us. 
"Well?" she demanded. 



312 



Thieves' Wit 



"No good," I said. "The girl never came." 

"Hml" said Lorina. That was all. 

It struck me that she must have known already 
that we had failed. 

Lorina asked for her pistol, and I handed it over. 

"Boys," said Lorina, "we'll go up to the office and 
have a council. I was just waiting for these two 
to come in. We've got to decide what we're going 
to do about this bull Enderby. He's active again." 

There was something in the tone of this speech, 
or in the look which accompanied it, that caused the 
scalp behind my ears to draw and tingle. I began 
to wonder if I had not risked too much in venturing 
back into the lion's den this night. However, it 
was too late for regrets. I put the best face on it 
I could. 

We trooped up-stairs. Some of the boys had been 
drinking. There was a good bit of noise. The 
office as I have already explained is the front room 
on the second floor. It extends the width of the 
house, and it has three windows. That on the left 
is over the portico and stoop. 

At the right of the room is a large flat-topped 
desk. Lorina sat at it with her back to the fireplace. 
She motioned me to a seat at her right. The men 
lounged in chairs about, some of them with their 
elbows on the desk. Lorina ordered the door 
closed. I was wondering if I'd ever leave that room 
alive. 

Lorina rapped on the desk for attention. 



Thieves' Wit 



313 



"Boys," she said bl:pcly, "we've got a spy 
among us." 

Instantly every pair if eves tut.ied on me. I 
jumped up. My baclc was in the comer. I bluffed 
them as best I could. 

"What's the matter with you ?" I cried. "I didn't 
ask you to take me in. You came after me. You 
gave me your work to do. Haven't I done it? 
Didn't I deliver the goods at Newport? Didn't 
I undertake a nasty bit of work to-night? Ask 
Freer there. And now you turn on me I" 

"Keep quiet 1" commanded Lorina. "You'll 
have your hearing." 

To the men she said: "For a week I've known 
there was a leak somewhere, and I wanted to test 
him. I gave him a job out at Amityville, and I sent 
Freer with him. I had an agent in the house out 
there. Well, he didn't pull the job off." 

"Was that my fault ?" I cried. "Ask Freer." 

She turned to Freer. "How about it?" 

"I — I didn't see anything," he stammered. 

"Were you with him all the time?" 

"He was never out of my sight." 

"Be careful how you answer," she said, "or I'll 
believe you're in with him." 

Freer's face was pale and sweaty. "Well — well 
— he flirted with a girl in the station. I couldn't 
hear what he said because, I was buying the tickets. 
It looked all right." 

"Looked all right I" snarled Lorina. "You fool 1 
One of Enderby's spies tracked you I" 



>i\ 



314 



Thieves' Wit 



"I swear we weren't trailed!" cried Freer. "I 
watched particularly." 

"What time was that?" 

"About quarter past seven." 

"At eight o'clock a telegram was delivered at the 
Sanatorium," said Lorina. "My agent called me 
up. It said : 'Do not leave the house to-night,' and 
was signed 'B. Enderby.' " 

The gang looked at me with a new hatred. 

Lorina laughed harshly. "Oh, this isn't Ender- 
by," she said. "Enderby was at the Sanatorium 
to-night seeing his girl. We had the two of them 
together, and this traitor double-crossed us I" 

They began to move threateningly towards my 
corner. 

"Keep back I" cried Lorina. "Let's hear what 
he has to say first." 

I licked my dry lips and did the best I could for 
myself. "You've got no proof I" I cried. "How 
could I have sent a telegram. I was never out of 
Freer's sight. Why should I have signed it Ender- 
by if Enderby was out there ? You all know I'm no 
bull but a workman at Dunsany's. I can account 
for every minute of my time since Jumbo first picked 
me up I" 

Lorina was nearer me than any of the men. She 
took a step forward. I guarded my face. But 
that was not her point of attack. Her hand shot 
out, and the wig was snatched from my head. There 
I stood with my bare poll. The jig was up, 

A loud laugh broke from the men — ^jackals' laugh- 



Thieves' V/it 



315 



ter, before tearing their prey. A different kind of 
sound came from Freer. 

"My God! it's Mr. Dunsany!" he gasped. 

"Eh?"8aidLorina. 

"Walter Dunsany," he repeated, staring as if he 
saw a ghost. 

"Is this true?" she demanded of me. 

I felt as if the worst were over now. A sudden 
calmness descended on me. It was a sort of relief 
to be able to be myself. "Quite true," I said. 

"What's your game?" she demanded scowling. 

"Do you need to ask?" 

There was a commotion among the men. I heard 
different exclamations and demands. Some were 
for despatching me on the spot ; one suggested I be 
held for a million dollars' ransom. 

Lorina turned on the last speaker. "You fool !" 
she cried. "Ten millions wouldn't save him 1 He 
gets a perpetual lodging in my cellar!" 

Cries of approval, more laughter greeted this. 

From her dress Lorina drew the gun I had given 
her a little while before. "Hands up!" she com- 
manded. 

Now I knew it was not loaded, and I had a loaded 
gun in my pocket. But so had every other man 
there, and all had more practice in drawing their 
weapons than I. So I thought it best to obey. Up 
went my hands. 

"Foxy, Jim, frisk him!" said Lorina. 

They found the gun, and flung it on the dak. 



3i6 



Thieves' Wit 



Lorina dropped it in the middle drawer. There 
was nothing else incriminating upon me 

Down on the floor with himi" cried somebody. 

findirL ••" '"""''• "^^•" "•= -''- - - 

"slT^t' "' *''' little straw of hope that showed. 

Send them out and I'll talk freely," I „,uttered. 

I ve no mmd to be shot when I'm not looking." 
Uvcr-confidence betrayed her. With a mm In 
her l..d she felt herself more than a matcJ f^a J 
unarmed man. By a fatal oversight she never 

ruttV: "\'' '" 7"^°" "''^ '-'^'^- She d"r 

tholft """KT ^"' " ^ '^"^^- ''"'J P"haps she 
thought I might have something to say which it was 
better they shouldn't hear. They grumbleJ Z 
she was absolute mistress there. She ordered the.^ 
out of the room. 

"Shut the door," she said. "Wait outside. Do 
not come in unless I call you." 

Jrli^ T^^ *'', ""'* '^°°' '°^'''^' '•"d get my gun 
a iS. l"T ''""? '^!' ^"^'^ ''PP''^'*'^ *h<. win'dfws 
to ston 1 " K '"'■ ^u ""' "''"^' "° ""°"'' »«empt 
Iha? Kf ttrom'"^ ^^^ "° ^°^^'"^ ""P' '" 
''What have you got to tell me?" she said. 

second t" i^" ^"^ '° ^°''^" ^ P^"''''^- Every 
second I could gain was precious. 

"Stand still 1" she commanded. "Where is 
Fnderby to-night?" " 

'At the Sanatorium, you said." 
■ "^' returned on the same train you did." 



Thieves' Wit 



317 



"I didn't know it. I wish I had." 
"Well, where is he now?" 
"At the Rotterdam, I suppose." 

watdJed'-^' "°* """" '""'^ ^^"''' ^ '"''"' ^^^ P^'" 
"Then I don't know where he is." 
"You lie 1 Where do you have your meetings ?" 
We have never met but once since I've been on 
the case. 

''Do you expect me to believe that ? Stand still I" 

1 don t care whether you believe it or not. It's 
the truth." 

Meanwhile I was moving a few inches at a time 
around the wall towards the door the men had gone 
out by. Smce Lorina knew the dozen of them were 
just outside the door, indeed we could hear them, 
she cared little. My hands were still elevated of 
course. 

''How do you communicate with him?" she asked 
By letter or telephone.' 

"Where?" 

"At the Rotterdam." 

Her eyes glittered. "I've had enough of this 
foohng," she said. "If you've got anything that's 
^'orth my while you'd better say it. My finger's 
impatient." ^ ^ ' 

ton."".<WK' ^7 7f1^' ^''- ^ '^°P''^ '^ shining 
tone. -Why should I split on Enderby? You're 
jioing to croak me anyway. What'U you do for me 



H 



3i8 



Thieves' Wit 



"For the last time, tell me what you know, or I'll 
hand you over to the boys 1" said Lorina. 

I had reached the door now. The key was in it. 
I had calculated every move in advance. Down 
came my hands, I turned the key, and flung it out of 
the open window. Lorina began to shoot. The 
gun makes so little noise at any time that she had 
pulled the trigger several times before she realised 
it was not loaded. By that time I was half way 
back to the desk. I got the drawer open and my 
hand on my gun, as she leaped on my back. I flung 
her ofi. 

She was crying for help by this time. The men 
outside tried the door, then flung themselves against 
it. It could not hold long against that weight. But 
I needed only a few seconds. I reached the window 
over the portico. Somehow or other I slid down a 
pillar to the steps. As soon as my feet touched 
something solid I fired three shots in the air. This 
was the pre-arranged signal to the men in the hotel. 
I vaulted over the balustrade, and crouched in 
the areaway of the adjoining house out of range of 
any shots from the windows. Foxy undertook to 
follow me. As he dropped to the stoop I shot him 
in the legs. He fell in a heap. The others look- 
ing out, thought better of imitating him. 

Almost immediately the men came running out of 
the hotel, and Lorina's gang disappeared like magic 
from the windows. But as it had been arranged 
that some of the detectives were to approach over 



Thieves' Wit 



319 



the back fences, and others by the roof, I had no 
fear they would escape us. 

The rest is soon told. When we broke in the 
door we heard Lorina commanding the men not to 
shoot. As the police crowded into the hall, she 
came towards us head up, and with superb insolence 
demanded to know the meaning of the outrage. 
I'm afraid I indulged in rude laughter. 

The police were amply provided with handcuffs. 
We secured the prisoners two by two, searched them, 
and carted them off in the patrol wagon that was 
summoned by telephone. The bag was Lorina, 
Jumbo, Foxy (not seriously wounded), Jim, Freer, 
seven other men and the three negroes. Blondy 
escaped in safety according to your instructions. 
There was much mystification expressed, since the 
house was guarded front, rear and roof, and every 
corner of the interior was searched. Of course, I 
made a great fuss about it. 

The lieutenant of police reported the haul to 
Inspector Lanman, who arrived bye and bye with 
other high police officials in an automobile. You 
ought to have been there too. I was wild at my 
inability to get hold of you. I used all the eloquence 
at my command appealing to Lanman not to disturb 
anything in the house, and not to have the prisoners 
questioned until we could get hold of you. He 
agreed. 

I am remaining here in the house to see that his 
orders in that connection are obeyed, and also on the 
chance that other members of the gang wiy come in. 



320 



Thieves' Wit 



We have all of them that matter though — except the 
grand boss. Unfortunately the noise of this cap- 
ture will give him warning, but I have done the best 
I could. Lorina's other establishment is well- 
guarded, but will not be broken into until morning. 
Come quickly when you get this. 

Walter Dunsany. 
(J. M. no longer.) 



31 

n^HE tremendous popular excitement that fol- 
X lowed on the capture of Lorina and her gang 
does not help on my story, so I will pass over it 
quickly. The haul we made in the modern cave r.t 
Aladdm staggered the public imagination. Much 
agamst Mr. Dunsany's advice the jewels were pub- 
licly exhibited in police headquarters for three days 
Mr. Dunsany and I were elevated into the position 
of newspaper heroes. He at least deserved it, bu^ 
1 doubt if he enjoyed his honours. I know I didn't 
enjoy what fell to me. I couldn't help but think 
f we had only been able to hush up this noise for 
twenty-four hours, maybe the grand boss of the out- 
fit might have walked into our welcoming arms 

I will simply say that a thorough combing of 
Lorina s house, and of her offices, revealed no^the 
slightest bu of evidence leading to the man we 
ought. She was a wonder at covering her tracks. 
In the midst of all the popular praises I was dis- 
couraged. There was nothing as far as I could see 
to prevent the organiser of the gang from presently 
organising another. Meanwhile I was in hourly ex- 
oftbuHet ""''''"* *"" compliments in the shape 
I had one small hope left, and that was in Blondy. 
ifte fact of his escape had been duly published, and 

3" 



322 



Thieves' Wit 



I was praying that Lorina, deprived now of any 
better instrument might be led to use him. I care- 
fully stayed away from the boy, keeping in touch 
with him by letter and phone. I would not, of 
course, put him up to communicating with Lorina. 
That would instantly have aroused her suspicions. 
Any move must come from her. I append some of 
Blondy's letters. 

July loth. 
Dear Mr, Enderby: 

The house was pinched last night, as you know 
by this time. I hau gniie to the back room on the 
third floor by myself because I thought they were 
going to murder a man in the office, and I was sick- 
ened by it. I don't know If he got away or not. I 
suppose the whole story will be in the evening pa- 
pers. Anyhow I heard the three shots outside, which 
vou told me would be the signal, so I beat it up the 
ladder to the scuttle. You told me if any one else 
tried to get out that way, I was to let them go on 
ahead of me and hide in the hall closet, but I was all 
alone. There was a deuce of a racket down-stairs. 
The servants in the front room were hollering, but 
they didn't come out. I got out on the roof and met 
the detectives coming over from the hotel. They 
grabbed me and threw a light in my face. Seeing 
who it was they let me go. I was glad. I was 
afraid maybe you had forgotten to give them in- 
structions. I went down to the street through the 
hotel, and chased home as quick as I could. Ac- 
cording to your instructions I shall go on living here 
as usual until I hear from you. 

Yours respectfully, 

Ralph Andrus. 



Thieves' Wit 



323 



For nearly a week nothing of any importance hap- 
pened. Then I received this: 

Dear Mr. Enderby: 

I called you up this morning to tell you about the 
lawyer coming to the association rooms to see me. 
This afternoon I went down to his office as you 
told me I should. The fellow said he was one of 
the lawyers hired by Mrs. Mansfield to defend her, 
and she had given him my name to see if I would 
make a witness on her side at the trial. Then he 
put me through a cross-examination that lasted a 
couple of hours. I was kind of flustered by it, be- 
cause I didn't know how you would have wanted 
me to answer his questions. But you told me if I 
didn't know what to say to tell the truth. So I did. 
The only time I lied was when he asked me how I 
got out of the house that night. I said when I got 
out on the roof I saw the officers coming, and hid 
behind a chimney till they passed. It seems I didn't 
know enough about the gang one way or another 
to make any difference. The lawyer told me to 
keep my mouth shut if I wanted to stay out of 
trouble, gave me a couple of dollars and sent me 
home. I hope I handled this matter right. 
Yours respectfullv, 

' R.A. 

The lawyer Plondy referred to was a junior part- 
ner in one of the best-known firms engaged in crimi- 
nal cases. It had been announced that this firm had 
been retained by Lorina. Since the lawyer had ap- 
proached the boy openly there could be no doubt 
but that he himself was acting in good faith. I 



334 



Thieves' Wit 



could not but feel though that there wai lomething 
behind this viiit, because, of course, Lorina knew 
that Blondy could tell next to nothing about her 
affairs, and that little not to her credit. 

I finally decided that she must have used the young 
lawyer as a kind of cat's-paw to discover Blondy's 
situation and present disposition towards herself. 
If I was right there would no doubt be develop- 
ments presently. I awaited the event in na little 
anxiety. 

Sure enough, three days later Blondy called me up 
to tell me he had just received a long letter from 
Lorina that I ought to read at once. I arranged to 
meet him in an hour at the office of the doctor who 
had first brought us together. He was instructed 
to make sure that he was not followed there. 

Lorina's letter enclosed a second letter. The 
enclosure was not sealed. The friendly tone of the 
first so different from Lorina's attitude towards him 
out of jail, excited the boy's derision. It read: 

Dear Blondy: 

I am so glad you made your getaway. The 
lawyer told me about it. You certainly were lucky. 
He tells me you are broke. I have been worrying 
about this. He will take this letter out to post, but 
he doesn't know what I am going to say to you. 
That's between ourselves. I know I can count on 
you not to split on a pal. Bum this as soon as you 
get the contents fixed in your mind. 

I can't send you anything from here, because these 



Thieves' Wit 



325 



devils have itripped me They have even taken my 
Keya, to I can t lend and get mto my safety deposit 
box for funds. But if you wiU help me, I'll be in a 
position to do something handsome for you. I have 
a duphcate set of keys that nobody knows about, and 
I want you to aet them for me. 
. I enclose a letter to Mrs. Bradford who is the 
janitress of the house at No — East Fifty-Ninth 
street. I kept a room there that I could go to when 
I wanted, to be quiet. Read the enclosed letter 
then seal it so she will think you don't know what's 
in It. Do everything just as the letter says. Don't 

Ynf ilft^fi T«.'"',"„'^": W«t«ns to this woman. 
You will find fiftv dollars in my pocketbook there. 
Give her thirty for the rent and ten for herself. 
You keep the other ten. Get a receipt for the rent. 

of ll,,J"^' "%'" ^^f pocketbook. Be very careful 
ot them. In a few days a man will call you up and 

and he will say Thomas Wilkinson. Then he will 
tell you what to do, and you must obey 
rJm.,^^ ^' w ^l *°°^, " >' ««» *« keys and 
\!?,Twir^ ^u^u' Y.'" ""<* y°" "^e thousand dol- 
lars in bills, which wiU set you up in business or give 
you a Bood time, whichever you like. 

If this turns out all right there wiU be a chance 
tor you to make other good things out of the crowd. 
^^_ 1 enclose the combination to the safe on a separate 

Take care of yourself, 

With love, 

LORINA. 

P.S. You mustn't think from my letter to Mrs. B. 
that I do not trust you. That's just to stall her off. 



326 Thieves' Wit 

The encloiure was a masterpiece. 

Dear Mrs. Bradford: 

I have been taken real sick, threatened with ner- 
vous prostration they say. I have had to go to Dr. 

s sanatorium at Amityville. Don't know how 

long I'll be here. Now Mrs. Bradford, I'm in a fix 
because I've lost my keys. I keep duplicates in my 
safe, and so I'm sending my nephew to you with this 
to get them. He has wavy, blond hair and blue 
eyes, and nice white teeth. He slurs his rs a little 
when he talks like a child. So he will call you Mrs. 
B'adfo'd. These details will identify him to you. 

Please let him into my room with your pass-key, 
and remain with him while he is there. Not but 
what he is a good boy, but boys will be boys you 
know. Don't let him see this. I have given him the 
combination of my safe. Inside is an old handbag 
with fifty dollars in it and a bunch of keys. He will 
give you thirty dollars of it for the rent, and ten 
for your trouble. Nothing else in the safe must 
be touched. Thanking you for your trouble, 
Yours sincerely, 
(Mrs.) Ei-izABETH Watkins. 

P.S. I hope your rheumatism is better. 

I made copies of the letters and the safe combina- 
tion, and told Blondy to go ahead and do exactly 
as he had been told. I suspected from Lorina's 
care that the little safe would make interesting dis- 
closures. However, I could get into it some other 
time. I was inclined to believe her story about the 
safety deposit box. Like all first-class liars she 



Thieves' Wit 



327 



wove truth into her lies whti she could. I was 
hoping, while scarcely daring to hope, that in a mat- 
ter of such vital importance she would not dare 
trust any one short of the "boss" himself. If he 
would only come after the keys ! 
Next day I got the following letter from Blondy. 

Dear Mr. Enderby: 

n ^jr'*^/^"^**'"8 J"'* *« '•»« Je"«r sa'd- Mrs. 
Bradford was a suspicious kind of woman. She 
lived in a cellar kind of place below the street level. 
i>txe asked me about a thousand questions before she 
would let me in. But I wasn't afraid of her Sus- 
picious people are generally easy to fool.* 

• V "T.E^st Fifty-Ninth street is an old build- 
ing that IS let out in stores and studios. Mrs. Mans- 
held s room was second floor rear. I couldn't look 
around much the old woman watched me so close. 
It was just an ordinary furnished room, nothing 
rich like the Lexington avenue house. There was 
an alcove with a bed in it. The only thing funny 
was the number of trunks standing around. I count- 
ed seven of them. They had covers and cushions 
on them. 

The safe was a little one. I opened it all right 
There was nothing in the main part but a lot of 
papers and the little satchel. There was an inside 
locked compartment. After I locked the safe again 
the old woman made me destroy the combination 
before her eyes. I paid her the money, put the keys 
in my pocket, and she hustled me out. That's all. 
Yours respectfully, 

R. A. 

* Pretty good observation for eighteen years old I 

B. E. 



328 



Thieves' Wit 



After this followed a period of strained anxiety 
for me. I could not stay near Blondy, of course, 
and I was afraid the man we hoped to get might 
circumvent him in some way. Maybe instead of 
telephoning him he would call on him in person. 
Blondy was instructed of course in that event to 
hang on to him like grim death, but how could I 
expect a boy of his age to get the better of an astute 
crook? 

However, this fear proved groundless. On 
Thursday morning about eleven Blondy called me 
up. I instantly knew by his breathlessness that 
something had happened. 

"Guy just called up," said Blondy. "Said: 'Have 
you got the keys?' I came back: 'Who are you?' 
'Thomas Wilkinson.' 'O.K.,* said I. Then he 
started in quick to give me my instructions." 

"I must take the twelve noon train from the Long 
Island Termbal for Greenwood City. I get off at 
Greenwood City and walk one block North to Suf- 
folk avenue which is the main street of the village. I 
turn to the right on Suffolk which is to say turn 
East or away from New York, and keep straight 
on right out of town to the wide, empty stretch of 
land that they call Ringstead plains. I have to walk 
about two miles out this road. Half a mile beyond 
the last house there's a locust tree beside the road. 
He said I couldn't miss it because it was the only 
tree standing by itself as far as you could see. 
Motor cars pass up and down the road frequently. 
But I must not accept a ride if it's offered to me. 



Thieves' Wit 



329 



I must sit down under this tree as if I was tired and 
stay there ten minutes or so, until anybody who may 
have seen me stop there will iiave passed out of sight. 
Then I am to leave the keys on the ground behind 
the tree and walk back to Greenwood City, and take 
the first train for New York. If he gets the keys 
all right, he said he would send the money b a pack- 
age by mail to-morrow." 

I made notes of all this while the boy was speak- 
ing. 

"Is it all right?" he asked anxiously. 

"Finer I said. 

"But the twelve o'clock train I It's quarter past 
eleven now. I wanted to put him off to give you 
more time, but you said do exactly what he said." 

"Quite right," I said. "Run along and get your 
train. Follow your instructions exactly and leave 
the rest to me." 



32 

TIME was very precious, but I allowed myself a 
few minutes for hard, concentrated thought. 
I believed that Blondy would be under surveillance 
from the time he left the Association rooms until he 
reached th? appointed spot. Evidently my man was 
aware of v'le advantage to himself of rushing the 
thing through, and it was likely the keys would be 
picked up within a few minutes of the time they 
were dropped. At any rate he would surely come 
after them by daylight, for night would make an 
ambush easy. Therefore it was up to me to make my 
preparations before the boy got there. Not very 
easy when he was already about to start. 

My man had had several days in which to find the 
spot near New York best suited to his purpose. 
From Blondy's description the place he had chosen 
must be bare of cover in miles. "Thomas Wilkin- 
son" would come in an automobile, naturally, and if 
anything in the vicinity aroused his suspicions he 
would not stop. I could not hope to pick him out 
among all who passed. It was a tough problem. 
I called up Lanman the chief of the detective 
bureau. Nowadays I commanded the respect of 
these people. 

"Look here," I said, "we have a chance to take the 
330 



Thieves' Wit 



331 



boss of the thief trust this afternoon, if we strike 
like lightning." 
"Shootl"saidhe. 

"First, send me quick a high- owered automobile 
with a nervy chauffeur and two operatives. Have 
them pick me up at the Southwest comer of Second 
avenue and 59th street, Queensboro bridge plaza." 

"Right 1" 

"Next get together five other good cars without 
any distinctive marks. Come yourself in one of 
them, and bring a dozen good men. Meet me — let 
me see — What town is there near Greenwood City, 
Long Island, but not on the same road?" 

"Ringstead, two miles South." 

"Know a hotel there?" 

"Mitchell's a road house." 

"Good. Have your five cars proceed to 
Mitchell's by different roads as quickly as possible. I 
may not be able to come there to you, but wait there 
for further instructions by telephone." 

"O.K.," he said. "We'll be on the way in ten 
minutes." 

"One thing more. Bring a good pair of field 
glasses." 

I took my own binoculars and a gun. On the way 
to the meeting-place I bought a road map of Long 
Island. The car was already waiting for me at the 
rpot named. Lanman wa^ a man after my own 
heart. 

We made quick time. I was provided with a 



332 



Thieves' Wft 



police badge in case any of the local constables 
should object to our rate of travel. On the road 
I studied my map and ^ot the lay of the land in my 
head. 

It was twelve-five when we reached Greenwood 
City, or fifty minutes before the train was due. As 
we passed the railway station I saw a car already 
waiting there, and I wondered idly if that would have 
anything to do with my case. It was a very dis- 
tinguished-looking car of a foreign make with a 
dark green body of, the style the French call coupe 
de ville. It seemed a little odd that any one should 
choose to ride in a closed car in such hot weather. 
An irreproachable chauffeur and footman waited 
near. 

We turned into Suffolk street, and hastened on 
out of town out to Ringstead plains. It was all 
just as Blondy had given it to me over the phone. 
There was the last house at the edge of the plain, 
and half a mile ahead stood the lonely locust tree 
beside the road. The house looked as if it mig^t 
belong to a small farmer or market gardener. 
There was a unall bam behind it. Ahead of us 
there was no other habitation visible as far as we 
could see. 

We kept on. It is a well-known motor road, and 
we passed cars from time to time. Earlier and later 
it would be quite crowded I expect, but this was one 
of the quietest hours. About three-quarters of a 
mile beyond the locust tree there was a wood that I 



Thieves' Wit 



333 



had my eye on. It was not of very great extent, but 
showed a dense growth of young trees. 

Reaching it, I found to my great satisfaction that 
there was a rough wagon track leading away among 
the trees. I had the chauffeur turn in there. There 
was no other car in view at the moment. Within a 
few yards the wagon track curved a little, and we 
were lost to view from the road. I got out and 
made my way to the edge of the trees. From this 
point I found I could overlook the locu-' tree with 
the aid of my binoculars. 

This was all I wanted. I gave the order to re- 
turn to Greenwood City. A little further in the 
wood there was a clearing sufficient to enable us to 
turn. One gets over the ground quickly in a car, 
and when we got back to Greenwood we still had 
twenty-fivc minutes before the train was due. This 
place, by the way, is not a city at all, but merely a 
village embowered in trees. The handsome green 
car was still waiting at the station. I went to a 
hotel to telephone. 

To my joy I got Lanman on the phone without 
delay. 

"I am here at Mitchell's with three of the tars," 
he said. "The other two were sent by a Rightly 
longer route. They will be here directly." / 

"Take three cars and proceed by the shortest 
route to Greenwood City," I said. "Make haste 
because I expect my man on the train from town in 
twenty minutes, and you must get through the vil- 
lage before he arrives," 



334 



Thieves' Wit 



"We can be there !n five," said Lanman. 

"Turn to the right on Suffolk street and proceed 
out on the plains. A mite snd a half out of town 
you come to the last house. It is a grey house with- 
out any trees around it ; there is a small bam behind 
it. Stop there and put up your cars in the barn in 
such a way that you can run them out quickly. I 
don't know the people in the house. I have no rea- 
son to believe that they have any connection with 
the man we want, but you'll have to use your judg- 
ment." 

I went on to explain to him just what Blondy was 
going to do, and how I expected our man to turn 
up shortly afterwards. 

"The East windows of the house overlook the lo- 
cust tree," I went on. "Station yourself at one of 
them with your glasses, and you will be able to see 
whatever happens at the tree." 

"I get you," he said. "What about the other two 
cars? One of them is just turning into the yard 
now." 

"Let them leave Ringstead by Merton street," I 
said, consulting my map, "and proceed East to the 
Joppa Pike; thence North to the Suffolk pike and 
turn back towards Greenwood City. About two 
miles and a half before reaching the village, more 
than a mile beyond the house where you will be, 
there is a small wood on the left hand side of the 
road. There is a wagon track leading into it. 
They are to turn in there and diey will find me a 
little way inside." 



Thieves' Wit 335 

. "AH right," Slid Lanmin. "The Ust car i. com- 
ing now. 

"Listen," I said. "Our man without doubt will 

into my hands. But if he should turn around and 
go back It's up to you." 

"I understand," said Lanman grimly. 

DO Jo !^'""!f ' ^'TJ ''" ''"'' "^ ""y observation 
post at the edge of the wood. I had not been there 
long when through my glasses I saw a car turn 
into the farmer's place. A second and a third car 
foUowed at short mtervals. In a quarter of an hour 

Ste.5;rj?l'" "' j°'"?? T' ""^ • ^'^ '»i"«« 
addition to the chauffeur. 

We turned the cars around and stationed them 
m line where, though they were invisible from the 
h^road they could run out upon it in a few sec 
onds. The other side of the highway was fenced. 
Having completed our arrangements, there was noth- 
ing to do for a while, and I told the men to take it 

C3SV. 

. ^""''^^"K *o my calculations Blondy would appear 
n view about one-thirty. It was a long walk from 
he station and a hot day. Exactly on schedulH 

tsdf through the glasses into the figure of a soli. 

It was Blondy. So far so good. 



^6 



Thieves' Wit 



I was hfiag on the ground at the edge of the lit- 
tle wood with the glaiies steadied on a fallen trunk. 
The whole flat plain wa> spread before me. The 
cart were about thirty yards behind me, each chauf- 
feur at hit wheel. Between me and them I had 
the four men stationed at intervals so I could pass a 
whispered order back. 

While Blondy was covering the spivce between the 
house and the locust tree a green car hove in view be- 
hind him, which I presently recognised from the ir- 
reproachable chauffeur and footman as the coupe de 
mile. It overtook the walking figure, and came on 
up the road, past the wood, and past us. I won- 
dered if our man was now inside. 

Blondy reached the tree at last. I suspected that 
he welcomed the shade. It seemed perfectly nat- 
ural for him to sit down under it. He remained 
there ten minutes. Several cars passed to and fro 
and one of them stopped. This puzzled me for a 
moment, but I supposed that it was merely some 
good Samaritan who offered the perspiring boy a 
lift. While Blondy was sitting there the green car 
went back. I was pretty sure now that it contained 
our quarry. 

At last Blondy got up and started back. These 
periods of waiting try a man's nerves. Mine were 
pretty well on edge by this time. It seemed to take 
an age for the boy to retrace his steps over the vis- 
ible part of the road. About two hundred yards 
beyond the farmhouse there was a bend in it which 
concealed the rest from my view. 



Thieves' Wit 



337 



A minute or two after Blondy ditappeared from 
my tight, the big green car again hove into view- 
around the bend. My heart hit up a few extra 
beats. 

"Get ready," I sent word along the line. 
To my great disappointment it did not stop at the 
tree. It came on, and passed the wood again with 
the loud purr of new tires. However, I explained 
it to myself by the fact that there was another car 
in view at the moment. I set myself to wait in the 
expectation of his return. 

In live minutes return he did, but this time there 
was a car close behind, and once more he passed 
out of sight without stopping. I hoped that Lan- 
man had marked the passing and repassing of the 
fashionable car. 

It was now past two o'clock, and the hottest part 
of the day was coming on. A haze of heat undu- 
lated shimmeringly over the pi; " Our tempers 
suffered. There in the little wooo we were in the 
shade, it is true, but there was not a breath of air 
stirring, and the mosquitoes were busily plying their 
trade. The men breathed hard, and wiped the'r 
faces. At first they had taken their coats off, but 
finding the insects co- ;d bite through their shirt- 
sleeves they had put them on again. I had thrown 
off my hot wig. A disguise was unnecessary now. 
Once more the green car turned into sight beyond 
the farmhouse. This time the road was empty and 
my heart beat hopefully. Sure enough it stopped 
opposite the locust tree. 



338 



Thieves' Wit 



"Start your enginei," I whispered along the line. 

A man alighted from the coupe and walked to the 
tree. A Panama hat shaded his face and I could 
not get a good look at it. He walked around the 
tree and seemed to be gazing up in its branches, as 
well as looking down at the roots. I could not un- 
derstand this evolution, still I was pretty sure that 
I saw him stoop and pick something up. 

He returned to his car, and it started forward. 

"Go ahead," I said to my men. 

They knew what they had to do. I lingered a 
moment to see whether he was going to turn around 
or come on. He came straight, faster than he had 
been travelling. I ran after my cars. 

According to instructions they moved out in line 
across the road, completely blocking it. I timed it 
as closely as I could, but unfortunately the road was 
perfectly straight. With the appearance of the first 
car out of the wood, the green car took the alarm. 
We heard the creech of the brakes. They came to 
a stop in a cloud of dust. Those town cars can- 
turn almost in their own length. Around they went 
and back with the exhaust opened wide. 

We jumped aboard our cars and as soon as we 
could disentangle ourselves took after them. They 
were half a mile away when we got straightened out. 
Now if only Lanman did not fail me I 

To my joy, away ahead I saw the police cars 
slowly move one, two, three across the road. We 
had him trapped 1 Once more the green car stopped 
in a cloud of dust. 



Thieves' Wit 



339 



Laiunan and I approaching from opposite direc- 
tiom, reached it limultaneously. We had our suns 
out. 

"What'i the matter with you?" the angry, fright- 
ened chauffeur cried. 

We paid small attention to him. I and my gun 
looked into the coupe together. Lanman ran 
around to the other door. In the comer of the seat 
I saw, exquisite, immaculate— Alfred Mount I 

"Youl" he gasped. 

"Youl" I cried. 

Of the two I was the more surprised. For the 
moment I was incapable of moving. 

He did not speak again, nor attempt to get up. 
Through the front window of the coupe he saw the 
small crowd of detectives gathering. The light died 
out of those bright, black eyes. He clapped the 
back of his hand to his mouth as you have seen 
women do in moments of despair. The hand 
dropped nervelessly in his lap. Before my eyes his 
face turned livid. His body stiffened out in a hor- 
rible brief spasm, and he fell over sideways on the 
scat — deadl 

My eyes and Lanman's were glued alike in hor- 
ror to the corpse. The left hand, a hand too ele- 
gant for a man's had now dropped to the floor. 
A glance at it explained the tragedy. An immense 
flat emerald on the ring finger was sprung back 
revealing a tiny cup beneath. The chief and I 
looked at each other in understanding. 



340 



Thieves' Wit 



We were recalled to practical matters by the im- 
perious tooting of a horn up the road. One oncom- 
ing chauffeur naturally objected to the barricade of 
automobiles. Lanman and I alike dreaded the ir- 
ruption of foolish curiosity-seekers. At a word 
from me he hustled the detectives into their re- 
spective cars, and got them straightened out They 
were all ordered back to headquarters. All this 
happened within a few moments. I don't believe 
any of the detectives realised that the man was dead. 

None of the engines had stopped and we quickly 
had the road dear. Lanman and I thought so much 
alike in this crisis that it was hardly necessary to 
talk. We got into the coupe with its ghastly bur- 
den and without touching it, sat down on the two 
little seats facing it. A glance at th^ police badge 
was sufficient for the chauffeur. 

"Your master has had a stroke," I said to him. 
"Take us to his home as soon as possible." 

Lanman nodded his approval. 

When we got Mount's body to his rooms, we sent 
for his doctor, one of the most famous practition- 
ers in town, also for the commissioner of police and 
for Mr. Walter Dunsany. 

When the five of us were gati.cied together, we 
consulted, and finally put it up to the commissioner 
to dedde what ought to be done in the interests of 
good dtizenship. After listening to me, to Mr. 
Dunsany and to the doctor, all of ^om felt the 
same,. though for different reasons, he voted with 
us. We agreed that Mount had taken the best way 



Thieves' Wit 



341 



out under the circumstances. None of us wanted to 
drag his dead body through the mire. As niu h of 
the loot as could be recovered was already recovered. 
None of us wanted to see any more scandal aired in 
the newspapers. Therefore it was given out that 
Mr. Mount had committed suicide while motoring 
in the country, and no cause for the act was assigned. 
Of course I told Roland and Irma the truth, so 
that no shadow might dim their future happiness. 



33 



LITTLE more remains to be told. For weeks 
afterwards the case was threshed out in the 
newspapers, but nothing was brought out that you 
do not already know. No suspicion attached to 
Mount's chauffeur and footman. They had met 
him at the Greenwood City station according to or- 
ders. He had exclaimed at the beauty of Ringstead 
plains, and they thought that was why he had him- 
self carried back and forth so many times. On the 
last journey he had remarked the locust tree, speak- 
ing of the rarity of the species, and had ordered them 
to stop so that he could examine it. They knew 
nothing about trees, of course. They had not seen 
him pick up the keys. 

The news of Mount's death took all the iight out 
of Lorina. Whatever human feeling there was in 
that woman was all for him. It appeared that her 
devotion to him was so abject, that she was even 
willing to help him in his plotting to secure Irma 
for his wife. 

The thieves were sent up for terms more or less 
corresponding to the degrees of their guilt. Lorina 
and Foxy are still there. Jumbo is out now, and 
professes to have reformed. He seems to bear me 
no malice, and occasionally braces me for a small 
loan. One of the gang, Bella Bleecker, escaped for 

34a 



Thieves' Wit 



343 



lack of evidence. I knew that she was one of Lo- 
rina's creatures, whom Mount had placed near Irma 
as a spy, but there was nothing to connect her with 
the thefts. 

There was one mysterious feature of the case 
which the trial did not clear up, i. e., the source of 
Roland's handsome legacy. I had my susplcijns 
but no proof. Mount's doctor was one of his ex- 
ecutors and I was permitted to examine the dead 
man's papers. I found that on the last day of 
March previous he had drawn $40,000 in cash. 

This was pretty conclusive, but there was a link 
of evidence still missing. Continuing a search of 
Mount's effects I found a receipted bill from an ob- 
scure lawyer for legal services rendered about this 
time. I looked the man up. 

He proved to be a seedy, servile little creature, 
one of the desperate hangers-on of the outer fringe 
of a respectable profession. Mount being dead and 
no longer a possible employer it was easy to make 
the lawyer talk. 

Whether or not he knew what he was doing, I 
can't say. He claimed that Mount had told him 
he wished to do something for a worthy young fel- 
low who was too proud to accept anything from him 
direct. He then laid out the scheme of the myste- 
rious, unhappy lady who was supposed to have died 
leaving Roland Quarles her fortune. Mount, the 
lawyer said, supplied the ingenious letter that was 
sent to Roland. The lawyer carried the money to 
the trust company. 



344 



Thieves' Wit 



This infonnation dissipated the last bit of mji- 
tery. The more I thought over it the more I mar- 
velled at Mount. Certainly there was something 
magnificent in his villainies. Fancy ^ving your rival 
forty thousand dollars in order to ruin him I It 
was clear now why the order had come down from 
above to Jumbo to sell Irma's pearls to Roland at 
a reduced price. I wonder if ever a more devilish 
plot was hatched by one man to ruin another. And 
how nearly it had succeeded. Mount had shown 
the devil's own cunning in playing on the weak spots 
in Irma and in Roland. 

The period of the trial was a hateful time for all 
of us. Our own happiness was not to be thought 
of until that ordeal was over. A blessed peace de- 
scended on us when the last verdict was rendered. 

The blisful event occurred in October. Irma and 
Roland insisted that Sadie and I must be married at 
the same time they were. 

The double event took place in the Little Church 
Around the Comer. Only Mr. Dunsany, Blondy, 
the Doctor and a few others were present We all 
felt as if we had had enough publicity to last us the 
rest of our lives. 

Roland insisted on returning the balance of his 
legacy to the Mount estxte. I thought he had the 
beat reason in the world for hanging on to it, but 
that was Roland. He actually wanted Irma to turn 
over her pearls to the executors, less what she had 
paid for ^em, but we all fougitt him on diat. She 
had purchased them fairly, I insisted, and if Mount 



Thieves' Wit 



345 



had named too low a price that was his affair. He 
gave in when I pointed out that was the cause of 
her pving up a lucrative profession, and he had no 
right to deprive her of her property also. 

The famous blue pearls were sold. Part of the 
proceeds was devoted to the purchase of a fine old 
manor and a farm on the Eastern shore of Mary- 
land. Roland and Irma have forsaken the foot- 
lights forever. Farming is their true vocation, they 
say, and nothing could ever tempt them back. 

Mr. Dunsany has ever remained my firm friend. 
He insisted on rewarding me very handsomely for 
my work on the great case, though I considered the 
reputation it brought me enough. The honour 
seems likely to last me as long as I am able to work. 
With the money Sadie and I decided to buy a smaller 
place adjoining our friends. Sadie has turned 
farmer, too. 

I can't be there as much as I would like. After 
the dust and danger of my work it is like Heaven to 
run down home. At first Sadie objected strenu- 
ously to this arrangement. She said she expected 
to continue to help me with my work. That was 
what she married me for, she said. But the one 
fright was enough for me. I don't hear so much 
about her desire now. Sadie has other things to oc- 
cupy her mind. Yes, three of them. 



THE END